Hello and Happy French Friday! Today I’m looking at a book many of you may be interested in simply for the fact that it’s set in France and it doesn’t look like many of us will be travelling to France this summer – it’s the perfect armchair travel read!
From the publisher:
A little over ten years ago, Janine Marsh and her husband Mark gave up their city jobs in London to chase the good life in the countryside of northern France. Having overcome the obstacles of starting to renovate her dream home – an ancient, dilapidated barn – and fitting in with the peculiarities of her new neighbours, Janine is now the go-to expat in the area for those seeking to get to grips with a very different way of life.
In the Seven Valleys, each season brings new challenges as well as new delights. Freezing weather in February threaten the lives of some of the four-legged locals; snow in March results in a broken arm, which in turn leads to an etiquette lesson at the local hospital; and a dramatic hailstorm in July destroys cars and houses, ultimately bringing the villagers closer together.
With warmth and humour, Janine showcases a uniquely French outlook as two eternally ambitious expats drag a neglected farmhouse to life and stumble across the hidden gems of this very special part of the world
My Four Seasons in France is the long-awaited follow up to Janine’s first book, My Good Life in France. You may know Janine from The Good Life France website and Magazine (and if you don’t and you are a Francophile, you should!) and if you are familiar with any of her other work, you’ll know that her warm, personable voice is easy to read – she’s a wonderful storyteller and moving through the book feels as though you are right there with her, enjoying a cup of tea in her farmhouse kitchen, surrounded by her menagerie.
Each chapter recounts a month in the Seven Valleys, beginning with a freezing January morning and ending in the warmth of a neighbour’s kitchen, sharing stories, wine and snacks and ultimately, the companionship of being part of a small village. Janine has a gift for drawing you into the sometimes complex ins and outs of village life, making it feel like you really know the people she’s describing, making it feel like you’re part of the village.
Something I love about Janine’s writing is that she doesn’t just focus on the romance of “the good life in France” as many expat memoirs do. France, as I well know from living there for a number of years when I was younger and owning a vacation rental property there today, IS amazing and beautiful and a wonderful place to be. But if you live there, there is so much more than the food and wine and beautiful countryside and architecture. There is the never-ending bureaucracy and red tape. There are cultural differences that sometimes you feel like you will never understand. There a language (and sometimes regional dialects) to learn. And sometimes things can be frustrating. Janine doesn’t over romanticize the realities of life in France, rather, she approaches learning to live à la française with curiosity, compassion and humour – very important qualities that I am sure have endeared her and her husband to the villagers. Her ability to laugh at herself and some of the predicaments she finds herself in is, I’m sure, one of the reasons she has adapted so well to life in a country that will sometimes have you scratching your head and asking “Pourquoi?”
If you’re itching to get to France but can’t see your way there anytime soon, this is a wonderful way to transport yourself to a small village in the Pas-de-Calais for a day or so. It will have you definitely daydreaming…
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