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British author Peter Mayle is known for his series of books detailing life in Provence, France. Peter was born on June 14, 1939 in Brighton, East Sussex, England. The youngest of three children, Mayle and his family moved to Barbados at the end or World War II. At sixteen, Peter dropped out of school and returned to England. In 1957 he began his first job, working as a trainee at the Shell Oil office in London. It wasn’t long before Mayle realized he had an interest in advertising; Ambitiously, Peter wrote to David Ogilvy, head of advertisement for Shell at the time, and requested a job. Ogilvy offered Peter Mayle a position as a junior account executive; However, Mayle was interested in the creative side of advertising. In 1961 David Ogilvy gave Peter a job as a copywriter in the New York office which better suited his creative aspirations. Mayle eventually caught the attention of Papert Koenig, a competing advertising agency and moved back to London to head up their creative team. In the mid-1960s Peter and a fellow colleague purchased Papert Koenig’s London branch. The pair developed the business over the next several years attracting many prominent clients including Sony, Watneys and Olivetti. After five years of development, Peter and his partner sold the business to a top American advertising agency, BBDO. Afterwards, Peter Mayle spent the next few years traveling between advertising offices in the United States and Britain. In 1974 Peter Mayle made the decision to give up his advertising career in order to write full-time. He got his start writing educational books including a series of sexual education literature for children and young adults.
With intent to pen his first novel, Mayle decided, at the age of fourty-six, to fulfill his life-long dream of moving to France. Plans for writing a fictional novel were immediately abandoned when Peter Mayle felt an intense impulse to write a detailed account of his new life with his wife, Jennie, and their two large dogs in a foreign land. In 1989 he published ‘A Year in Provence’ which chronicled the highlights of their first year living in Menerbes, a small village in southern Vaucluse, situated in the heart of France’s district of Provence. In it, he describes his two-hundred-year-old stone farmhouse at the base of the Luberon Mountains and how his new, colorful neighbors in rural Menerbes differ from people living in urban areas of France. Mayle accounts the struggles he and his wife face in transitioning from tourists to full-time residents while reflecting on the annoyance summer tourists can be to the citizens of Menerbes. The two attempt to deal with brutal winter weather while renovating their home and trying their hardest to learn the language well enough to carry a conversation with their new neighbors. Mayle paints a vivid picture of the beautiful scenery and shops surrounding his new home and describes the wonderful delicacies he and his wife become accustomed to while living in the south of France. Although ‘A Year in Provence’ it was not expected to be a huge success, Mayle’s witty, anecdotal memoir became an international bestseller and has been published in over twenty languages.
‘A Year in Provence’ was named Best Travel Book of the Year by the British Book Awards in 1989 and went on to become one of the most successful travel books of all time. After the success of his first autobiographical non-fiction novel, Peter Mayle wrote several more memoirs accounting life in Provence including national bestseller ‘Toujours Provence’. Published in 1992, ‘Toujours Provence’ picks up where ‘A Year in Provence’ left off, detailing another year in Menerbes and delving more deeply into the subject of pesky summer tourists than his previous book. New characters from Mayle’s real-life are introduced as he reveals a second-year’s worth of discoveries. His novels set in Provence became so popular that ‘A Year in Provence’ was adapted into a mini-series which aired on BBC in 1993.
Peter Mayle’s autobiographical writings became so well-known that he was bombarded by eager fans showing up at his home in Menerbes. Due to his books, the village received a massive influx of tourists, much to Peter Mayle’s dismay. Eventually, the excess attention became so overwhelming that Provence was no longer the peaceful retreat for Peter Mayle that it once was. He relocated to The Hamptons in New York state but couldn’t bare to be away from France long; After relocating to the village of Lourmarin in Luberon, Provence he began writing the third book in his ‘Provence’ series. ‘Encore Provence’, published in 1999, details Peter Mayle’s return to France after becoming disenchanted with mundane, day-to-day life in America. In Mayle’s 2001 installment of his autobiographical writings set in Provence, ‘French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew he focuses on the lavish food and drink in the south of France. Rich wines, escargot, bouillabaisse and countless French cuisine is described so vividly you can almost taste it. In 2004 Mayle published ‘A Good Year’, a fictional novel about Max Skinner, a man who discovers he has inherited his late Uncle Henry’s vineyard in Procvence shortly after resigning from his job at a London financial firm. Drowning in debt, Max Skinner borrows money from a friend and sets off to France to begin producing wine.
When Max arrives, he discovers the pleasures of France and alternatively discovers the home is in need of serious repair and the vineyard’s soil poor quality. ‘A Good Year’ was adapted into a film of the same name starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott which was released in 2006. Most of Peter Mayle’s fictional work is heavily inspired by his own life; His novels are often set in the south of France and many of his characters are expatriated Brits discovering a new love for life in a foreign land. Peter Mayle is praised for his beautifully detailed descriptions of scenery and his humorous antidotes. In addition to his wildly successful novels, Pater Mayle has written for numerous magazines and newspapers. Peter Mayle was awarded Author of the Year in 1992. In 2002, the French government dubbed Mayle a Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor) in 2002 for his contributions to culture.
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