I was very moved by this memoir and would recommend it to anyone (it feels far more immediate and emotionally rewarding, for instance, than Frances Mayes' "Under the Tuscan Sun").
Unlike some that explore the same territory here (culture shock, setting up housekeeping in a foreign land, quirks of the locals, history of the region and its landmarks, discovery of cuisine and surroundings), there is subtle artistry in the way it's written, gentle looks into the basic human goodness of the French people in her circle, and knowing that the author died of cancer in middle-age before ever seeing this book published brings a bittersweet feel that grows as the last page nears (mentioning in passing in the final chapter, for instance, that she will skip a planned trip to a spa that year due to an event taking place in the village and that the spa will always be there next year has a strong resonance, as you immediately realize and want to call out protectively to her, Yes it will be there, but you will not]).
Aside from the introduction to French life and characters, I found myself more transfixed by what I saw in Ann Barry herself -- a loner who never feels so right in the world as when she is on her own, and especially when in France as her truest self, even relishing that she has no telephone and can't be infringed upon by the outside world.
Knowing that Ms. Barry will die after 12+ years of sharing her journey, I found myself not just reading the story but considering questions of self and meaning in life, and feeling a bit sad for a woman who never connected with a significant other and that the scars of childhood in a somewhat dysfunctional family were far-reaching, as is the case with so many of us. (That sounds depressing, but it's more a consistent subtext here that one attuned will see, and that, to me, enriched my interest in the work. Many people may read the book not coming away with that at all.)
If you enjoy vicarious life and episodic memoir of someone who DID IT rather than THOUGHT ABOUT IT, I can think of no finer memoir that I've read of late, and I'm sure I will continue to think about the questions this raised in me about how we live our lives and what it all means and what good we can do for this world before we leave it, and for that I'm grateful to Ms. Barry for this work.
- Paperback: 260 pages
- Publisher: Random House Value Pub; 1 edition (1 March 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345407873
- ISBN-13: 978-0345407870
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.6 x 21.6 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 395 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 348,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)