From Peter Mayle, a wonderful new novel steeped in wine-and the business of wine and set in, bien sûr, Provence.Max Skinner is not exactly setting the London financial world on fire and when his supervisor steals his biggest client, it's definitely time to inspect the vineyard in Provence that his recently departed uncle left him. Heartily and happily distracted upon his arrival by the landscape, the weather, and the food not to mention the gorgeous notaireM handling the estate and the stunning owner of the local bistro Max almost forgets about his inherited property.Which might have been a good idea, because the wine produced there is swill. But then why, Max has to wonder, is his caretaker so anxious to acquire the land When a beautiful young woman from California arrives with what might be a legitimate claim on the estate, and knowledge of vineyards that far outstrips Max's own, the plot begins its twists and turns into and out of truly wonderful complications and resolutions.
Mayle's breezy, uncomplicated fifth novel (Chasing Cezanne, etc.) and ninth book follows 30-something Max Skinner from a sabotaged financial career in London to his adoption of the Proven al 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" from 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. Agent, William Morris. (June 3) Forecast: Mayle's soft-touch Proven al scene-setting is once again likely to translate into big bucks, with Ridley Scott signed up to direct the film version and a 175,000 first printing planned. BOMC selection; 8-city author tour. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2003
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Excerpt from A Good Year by Peter Mayle
It was high summer in London, and the raindrops felt almost warm on Max Skinner ' s face as he ran up Rutland Gate and into Hyde Park. He followed the curve of the Serpentine while the shapes of other people determined to suffer before breakfast came and went in the gray predawn murk, their faces slick with rain and sweat, their progress marked by the moist slap of their footsteps on the path.
The weather had discouraged all but the hard-core joggers. It was too wet for those bouncing, pink-cheeked girls who sometimes provided Max with a little welcome distraction. Too wet for the resident flasher who was usually on duty behind a bush near the bandstand, leer and raincoat at the ready. Too wet even for the pair of Jack Russells whose joy it was to nip at every passing ankle, their embarrassed owner lumbering after them mouthing apologies.
It was too wet, and perhaps too early. Max had been getting into the office late recently, often as late as seven-thirty, and Amis, his boss and nemesis, was not pleased. This morning would be different, Max promised himself. He ' d get in first, and make sure the miserable sod knew it. That was the big problem with Max ' s work- ing life: he liked the job but loathed the people, Amis in particular.
Turning at the top of the Serpentine, Max started back toward the Albert Memorial, his thoughts on the day ahead. There was a deal that he ' d been nursing along for months, a deal that would deliver a bonus big enough to pay his infinitely patient tailor and, much more important, get the bank off his back. Occasional murmurs of discontent about the size of his overdraft had turned into letters couched in ever more menacing terms, underlining the fact that it had been a lean year so far. But it was going to change, Max felt sure. With a surge of optimism, he sprinted down Rutland Gate, shook himself like a dog on the doorstep, and let himself into the stucco-fronted Georgian house that a developer had gutted and converted into what he described as highly desirable executive pieds- ' -terre.