It is a melancholy task to write the review of the last book of a man who died shortly before its publication, especially when, as in this book, he describes how he was sometimes, during interviews, asked irrelevant questions, subsequently to discover that the interviewer was asking them as preparation for writing his obituary.

But at least Peter Mayle thoroughly enjoyed the last twenty-five years of his life, assuming that his accounts of his felicity in Provence are not too rose-tinted. His life there was a round of simple pleasures interrupted, though not ruined, by intervals during which he wrote undemanding bestselling books about his round of simple pleasures. His writing is the diametrical opposite of, and perhaps the antidote to, the misery-memoir in which an abusive childhood is followed by the twenty-seven years of psychotherapy supposedly necessary to counteract its...

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