Thursday, April 30, 2015

Book review of Peter Mayle's Anything Considered

How can a Provençal caper whose every sinister twist threatens violent death be such a buoyant read? Because the caper’s creator, Peter Mayle, loves Provence. The caper’s protagonist, bon vivant Bennett, loves Provence. And an Anything Considered reader cannot help but fall in love with Provence. Also because Mayle laces his lingo with wry wit. Throughout the story, I smiled in spite of the suspense.

In an economic slump, British ex-pat Bennett advertises for “interesting and unusual work … anything considered except marriage.” Answering this ad, a wealthy businessman hires Bennett for a job that takes him into dangerous waters with ruthless, double-crossing thugs. Things go wrong, terribly wrong, of course. Who will outwit whom to get the goods, and who will die in this caper? I didn’t want to put down Anything Considered until I found out.

Mayle’s physical descriptions are a pleasure to read, as are his humorous cultural commentaries, such as French driving, villagers’ ploys in pursuit of juicy gossip, and truffle and wine worship. My favorite funny quip comes from a fake monk: “But what is champagne, after all? Nothing but grapes breaking wind, although our friends in Reims would doubtless disagree.”

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