Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Taking Root in Provence, by Anne-Marie Simons

Anne-Marie Simons. Taking Root in Provence. Waitsfield, VT: Distinction Press, 2011. 208 pages. ISBN 9780980217575.

Taking Root in Provence is a collection of short vignettes about the author's experiences settling in Provence and getting to know her new neighborhood and culture. Author Anne-Marie Simons retired with her husband, Oscar, and spent some time travelling before settling down in the town Aix-en-Provence, France. Simons writes about the weather, shopping, holidays, art, language, food, wine, and more. As I read through the short three to four page chapters, it occurred to me that they read like a series of blog posts, which indeed, they were originally.

While I enjoyed reading each of the short essays, I think they could have been better integrated into a narrative that tells Simons' story about moving to and living in Aix-en-Provence. For example, the chapters jump from one topic to another: spring, Easter, Cezanne, two chapters on language, the influx of Gypsies in spring, etc. Rather than publish all of the anecdotes jumbled together, it might have helped to have some transitions that tie the story together.

I was also slightly put off by the author's complete dismissal of contemporary French literature; she reported about one year's new publications, "Many of these books were written by sour-looking youngsters or by pseudo intellectuals who invite us to crawl into their beds and partake of their sex lives which, they seem to think, is really worth knowing about" (p. 30). Really, is that how you sum up the entire publishing output of your newly-adopted country? Another false note was Ms. Simons' reference to the "village idiot" (p. 130) in an anecdote about a small town she visited. I wonder why she wasn't able to come up with a better term than that one?

Nevertheless, Taking Root in Provence contains many pleasant, short essays about all aspects of life in the author's new environs. Aside from the two passages to which I objected above, I enjoyed reading about her new life and experiences. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys armchair travelling.

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