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Outside the Book Episode 2: Armchair Travel to the South of France

Posted September 9, 2013 in  Books and More

“Outside the Book” is a new monthly list that brings together materials from several areas of the library’s collections under the banner of an entertaining theme. Our themes may remind you of something you wanted to read, watch, listen to, or explore. Check back regularly for updates to our Outside the Book column to find new treasures!

Stressed about the end of summer and the beginning of the school year? You could escape to Provence or the Côte d’Azur in our second Outside the Book. With dozens of titles, movies, and CDs, it is just a question of what places you want to visit or how long you want to stay.

Dreaming of kicking your entire life to the curb and moving to the South of France? Peter Mayle’s humorous books will let you share what that was like for one ad executive:

“We had to be up early in the morning. We had a goat race to go to… We asked the old man, confident in the knowledge that he, like every Frenchman, would be an expert. ‘The goats who make the most droppings before the race are likely to do well. An empty goat is faster than a full goat. C’est logique.’”

Other memoirs to goûter might be Carol Drinkwater’s The Olive Farm _and _The Olive Season, Gully Wells’ The House in France, or Ten Trees and a Truffle Dog: Sniffing Out the Perfect Plot in Provence by Jamie Ivey.

Pick up some croissants and a café au lait, or maybe a tall glass of lavender lemonade, and dive into one of these romans exquisits: Guy Gavriel Kay’s_ Ysabel,_ Laura Resau’s The Ruby Notebook, or the erotic The American Woman in the Chinese Hat by Carole Maso.

You like your books historique? Nancy Bazelon Goldstone’s Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe might be just the ticket. You may also remember that the original tales of the Knights of the Round Table were by Chrétien de Troyes.

Maybe you are more mysteriously inclined, in which case the mysteries of M.L. Longworth will be more to your taste. Antoine Verlaque, the chief magistrate of Aix, and his love interest, law professor Marine Bonnet, in Aix-en-Provence, France are drawn into intrigues at various chateaux and other landmarks. Barbara Cleverly’s Strange Images of Death or Pierre Magnan’s The Messengers of Death may appeal to you.

Speaking of taste, the mouthwatering flavors of ratatouille, bouillabaisse, or aioli are readily reproduced after perusing some of the titles in our cookbook collection. Herbes de Provence: Seven Top Provençal Chefs and Their Recipes might be one place to start, and certainly M.F.K. Fisher, Patricia Wells, and Julia Child will vous aider.

Movies range from the Marseilles setting of the gritty French Connection, the first R-rated movie to win an Oscar; to the Paris kitchen of Ratatouille (Paris n’est pas en sud de France, bien sûr, but the title is the name of the signature dish of the region); to The Way, which ranges through Spain and the South of France; to the cornball French Kiss; to Chocolat (this writer’s favorite Johnny Depp!).

Of course, we have travel books and videos, should your trip actually require suitcases and itineraries. We have online components to plan your trip as well. Regardez, s’Il vous plait, our Auralog Tellmemore language database, or, for more geography and culture, Lands and Peoples and Culturegrams, all located on our E-resources page.

Should you want to make your surroundings here in West Michigan more authentically French country, we can give you a hand with French style, or French art.

Your musical accompaniment to this journey should include Edith Piaf, Georges Bizet, Hector Berlioz, or innumerable others from our collection. La tradition des troubadours started here.

Bon voyage!