Neil Armstrong

La Vie en Prose

Notes from the Cévennes: Half a Lifetime in Provincial France


Bloomsbury Continuum 242pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Note the subtitle: ‘Half a Lifetime’. Take that, A Year in Provence. To write about la France profonde with authority, you have to put in the hours.

Adam Thorpe and his family moved from England to the rugged Cévennes region of southern France in 1990, renting a former olive mill for three years before buying a rambling old house at the edge of a village in the foothills of the mountains. Now they divide their time between there and a flat in Nîmes, where the novelist and poet is professor of English at an art school.

This collection of vignettes covers town and village life, local history, wildlife, environmental issues and politics. The ‘Brit in France’ genre often depicts la vie en rose, but these essays, although shot through with humour, offer a more astringent view.

The Nîmes flat is above a noisy cafe and an ongoing battle with the proprietor sees a sleep-deprived Thorpe storming in well after 1am in his dressing gown, grabbing a bottle off the counter and waving it about. An adjacent property infested with thuggish young drug dealers is another source of anxiety.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Tarantino's latest film is 'a fairy tale about Hollywood, where fantasy is an industrial product and the boulevards… ,
    • 'I don’t think we’re here on Earth to be Happy. I think we’re here on Earth to help God. I am a messianic writer'.… ,
    • 'Darley’s book is not a mad dash through this most compelling and complex of English counties. Nor is it another ti… ,
    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,