Peter Mayle — A Good Year
Mayle’s breezy, uncomplicated fifth novel (Chasing Cezanne, etc.) and ninth book follows 30-something Max Skinner a sabotaged financial career in London to his adoption of the Provençal lifestyle on an inherited vineyard in France. Max spent holidays at his Uncle Henry’s vineyard as a child, so when he inherits the place, the prospect of returning is tempting; a generous “bridging loan” ex-brother-in-law Charlie seals the deal. The estate, Le Griffon, is in a dire state of disrepair and the wine cellar is filled with bottles of a dreadful-tasting swill, but it’s nothing that vineyard caretaker Claude Roussel and prim housekeeper Madame Passepartout can’t resolve. Max settles into his new life easily thanks to the attentions of local notary Nathalie Auzet and busty cafe owner Fanny. The arrival of young Californian “wine brat” Christie Roberts, Uncle Henry’s long-lost daughter, complicates matters for Max, but her surprise offer and Charlie’s arrival lessen the impact of a vicious vineyard scandal involving a delicious, high-priced, discreetly produced wine called Le Coin Perdu. Mayle’s simple story provides lighthearted if unadventurous reading and a fond endorsement of the pleasures of viniculture.