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Noël 2020: December's French-themed book review

The Connexion's December book reviews featuring books with links to France

A Butterfly on my Wine Glass - Annie Jefferies

YouCaxton Publications, €10 ISBN: 9781913425340

A Butterfly on my Wine Glass is a travel guide to the Nouvelle- Aquitaine region of Southwestern France. Its author begins the guide with an introduction into why this part of the country is so close to her heart.

It is a sweet story, and as innocent as the book’s title.

The history of her love affair with SW France spans decades and starts with a blossoming friendship between Annie and her Lyonnaise pen pal, whose family invited her to the French Alps for Christmas. This, Jefferies reveals, is where it all began. It then grew with trips to Geneva, and to many other places across France, though this region has certainly captured her heart, which is why she took to writing this, her self-proclaimed “summer project”.

The book is intended to be a friendly accompaniment to a fellow traveller’s journey and features information intertwined with personal stories and amusing anecdotes, drawing on the author’s many experiences in France.

Readers will find an array of tips ranging from the best markets to visit, helpful insights on local roads, gardens to see, cycling and walking routes, shops and museums, local sports and other pastimes to try, plus a few recipes for good measure. After all, one cannot write a book about France without including something food related!

At the back of the book you will find a handy index, to search directly for villages, as well as suggested further reading.

This travel guide also benefits from beautiful little watercolour illustrations, by Louise Wakeford.

How to Live the Good Life in France - Lorraine Turnbull

Fat Sheep Press, £4 ISBN 9781916389014

Are you thinking of moving to the French countryside? If so, this book might well be just the thing to finally convince you to make the move and go for it.

How to Live the Good Life in France: Attaining Your French Rural Dream is an inspiring, informational guide to moving to rural France and living sustainably there. It uses practical advice, infused with the author’s wealth of knowledge on the covered subjects, to help and guide intrigued readers.

Do take her advice – she is very much qualified; a youngster with dreams of becoming a farmer, Turnbull ran a successful gardening business in Glasgow, went on to buy land in Cornwall and teaches horticulture to adults. She is an award winner in sustainable living and also has experience in cider production.

The book begins with a straight-talking introduction on what’s to come – namely what readers can expect to learn and who can benefit from the book.

It goes on, in great detail, to discuss practical considerations of moving to rural France including French climate, finance, language barriers, moving with family, emergencies, translations and so much more – that’s just in the first chapter.

Fragonard: Painting Out of Time Satish Padiyar 

Reaktion Books, £35 ISBN 9781789142099

Author Satish Padiyar explores famous French artist Jean- Honoré Fragonard’s life, work, and generally secretive existence in this beautiful book complete with history, personal thoughts and 114 illustrations.

It focuses specifically on a curious time in the painter’s career and life, a time when, following a period of “huge public success”, his reputation lost its lustre and the public’s admiration withered away, as it does.

Fragonard remained in this period of hibernation for two decades, after which he died, in 1806. Padiyar aims to explore his distinct interest for the messages Fragonard might have been expressing through his works and lack thereof.

It seems another aim is to, in a romantic and fond way, investigate and try to understand the painter’s elusive personality.

Themes presented are space and time. The book is a thorough exploration, painting a picture of how he came to be and how his legacy lives on in contemporary culture.

A book worth buying very much for the imagery, which is splashed onto pages with intense colours.

Related stories

French cultural digest: December 2020

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