Book Review, Memoir

Book Review: The Magic of Provence


I dream of Provence.

I yearn to live there.

Well…only if I can lead a charmed life, like Yvone Lenard.

Lenard, author of the wonderful memoir The Magic of Provence, truly did lead a charmed life when she stumbled over a tiny village in Provence, France.  She fell in love with the area – with the rugged mountains, the lavender-scented breezes, the nodding sunflowers, the delicious cuisine.

Lenard, who grew up in France but moved to America at age 16, felt a call on the spur of the moment to speak with a real estate agent about finding a house in the picturesque village tucked under the shadow of a Medieval castle.  Although the first few houses she saw didn’t work out, she finally found the right cottage, a tumbling down hovel previously owned by the village’s school lunch lady.  The 1500s home is thought to be have been the garrison of the old castle, and during renovations, she and her husband discover it’s true. Oh, and the house? Originally from 1100!

The author does seem to lead a charmed life, and while her writing style was engaging, I was tempted to sigh and roll my eyes as if to say, “Yes, sure; and you were born under a lucky star too, right?” Because I mean, come on – any one of us who even attempted to buy a home in another country, move back to the United States, and trust that all would be well would find crooks, thieves and blackguards ruining us, right? Instead, the author finds a wonderful local authority on renovating historical homes who handles all the details. She befriends the local royalty. Ah, well…

It’s not all roses and champagne, or lavender and rose as the case may be in Provence. Her cleaning lady cheats her as does her gardener. The cleaning lady stories were the most horrifying to me – the cleaning lady actually let her family sleep in the home while the Lenards were back in California!  And had the nerve to complain about it. Unreal.

In the end however, the stories add up to a charming, funny, witty, and fascinating glimpse into a life I can only dream of but probably will never experience. The Lenards have the money and leisure to pursue their dream of owning a home in France, and they pursue it with gusto.  I enjoyed reading about their adventures in St. Tropez, the time an elephant almost stampeded during an open air performance of Verdi’s Aida, and how a 5-star Michelin chef personally brought a silver bowl of lettuce to their pet rabbit who made the extraordinary journey from the United States to France.  A boring life, no – not the Lenards.

If you love memoirs, then you will love this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and wished it wouldn’t end. My only regret? Not being able to read the duchess’ book, for Lenard not only befriended the duchess, she encouraged the glamorous lady to write her own memoir. The resulting family history and history of the castle preserved an important piece of local lore forever.  If it’s translated into English, I want to read it.

4 out of 5 stars for this book.

I received my copy as part of Paperback Swap, a club where participants trade books. You can purchase your copy through Amazon by clicking the link above. I am an Amazon affiliate and receive a small commission when you purchase books using these links, but they do not affect your price in any way.

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