Peter Mayle first introduced readers to the Provence region of France in his highly successful and wonderfully entertaining travelogues, A YEAR IN PROVENCE (1990) and TOUJOURS PROVENCE (1991). HOTEL PASTIS is Mayle’s first novel, and he incorporates his vast knowledge of Provence to add flavor to the amusing mix of romance and adventure in the book. Simon Shaw is a wealthy advertising executive in his early forties who has recently gotten a divorce. He takes stock of his life and comes to the conclusion that he needs to disengage himself from his present situation. Shaw feels burned-out, and so he takes off for the south of France for a much-needed vacation.
Driving his black Porsche convertible, Shaw finds his vacation interrupted by a minor accident in a small French village. He meets an attractive Frenchwoman, Nicole Bouvier, and his world is turned upside down. She convinces Shaw to purchase a rundown building and turn it into a small hotel. Suddenly his escape from London has turned into more than a mere vacation. He decides to resign from his former life and begin anew. His new low-key lifestyle, however, still has its complications. Shaw runs up against local bureaucracy, as well as an unexpected assortment of crazy characters. Mayle does not always succeed in making the various plot twists hold together, but he is a master at describing the region, especially its delicious cuisine. HOTEL PASTIS is an amusing romp through beautiful Provence. Although his approach is not always surefooted, Mayle rescues his novel by returning to what he seems to know best—the delights of the south of France.