Notes from the Cévennes: Half a Lifetime in Provincial France (Paperback)
A charming memoir exploring the history, landscape and people of rural France, told through the eyes of a Parisian-born Englishman, writer and poet.
Adam Thorpe's home for the past 25 years has been an old house in the Cévennes, a wild range of mountains in southern France. Prior to this, in an ancient millhouse in the oxbow of a Cévenol river, he wrote the novel that would become the Booker Prize-nominated Ulverton, now a Vintage Classic.
In more recent writing Thorpe has explored the Cévennes, drawing on the legends, history and above all the people of this part of France for his inspiration. In his charming journal, Notes from the Cévennes, Thorpe takes up these themes, writing about his surroundings, the village and his house at the heart of it, as well as the contrasts of city life in nearby Nîmes. In particular he is interested in how the past leaves impressions--marks--on our landscape and on us. What do we find in the grass, earth and stone beneath our feet and in the objects around us? How do they tie us to our forebears? What traces have been left behind and what marks do we leave now?
Part celebration of both rustic and urban France, part memoir, Thorpe's humorous and precise prose shows a wonderful stylist at work, recalling classics such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.
“In an altogether different class ... beautifully written, full of wisdom about the balance struck by humanity and the natural world ... Adam Thorpe, a self-described "curator of time", has written a grand little book. I might have added that no holidaymaker this year in France, or further afield, should be without it. But why wait until July or August? Don't postpone the treat. Buy now; this book is a real joy.” —The Tablet
“A marvellously astute, wry and affectionate account of France and the French – mercifully free of whimsy – and, moreover, written in pitch-perfect English prose. A delight.” —William Boyd
“Part history and part memoir, Notes from the Cévennes is a marvellous evocation of the forgotten Languedoc, and an affectionate portrait of a country and a people.” —Sigrid Rausing, Editor of Granta
“Thorpe continues ... quietly wonderful. Though (and perhaps because) Thorpe lives in France, he is alert to every English linguistic twitch, every slippery folk-meme. He's a writer's writer.” —Hilary Mantel (on Thorpe's novel Missing Fay; TLS Books of the Year, 2017)
“A powerful story of cooperation and conflict, both between ourselves and Nature. Living in two places, the ancient pastoral retreat of the Cévennes, and the Roman cosmopolitanism of Nimes, Adam has all the gifts of novelist, correspondent, historian and poet.” —Colin Greenwood, Radiohead
“His novels are concerned with how the past and the present, reality and fiction elide into each other, particularly through landscape; and Thorpe, in this series of tightly controlled, involving vignettes, finds evidence of this everywhere he looks … Gleaming with polished insights, this sensitive book is both a warning, plea and salutary reminder that even the tiniest action affects the universal. France profonde, indeed.” —Spectator
“Erudite and beguiling” —The Times
“Thorpe has dizzying range as well as style” —Daily Mail
“[A] deeply engaging book, part chatty memoir, part profound perception of the evidence of previous human existences ... He has, in short, lived a life to which he was not born but which he has taken up and made his own, something many people dream about but few are able to emulate” —Times Literary Supplement
“Thorpe's memoir is not part of any herd. Nor does it belong in the fast-and-loose category of potboilers about swapping English life for continental idylls … It is erudite, firmly embedded in its own soil and yet evasive … affectionate, appreciative and perceptive” —Observer
“Beautifully written and produced, a pure pleasure: learned and attentive and rich in description and full of humour that is genuinely affectionate without being remotely patronising” —Irish Times
“By turns comic and pensive, Notes from the Cévennes is an absorbing and beautifully composed collection of vignettes, recording Adam Thorpe's encounters, adventures and meditations over half a lifetime in France … Mr Thorpe captures so well the dark history of France, the conflict of religion, politics and land” —Country Life
“This absorbing book is written in prose as bright and bracing as the waters of the rivers in which Thorpe loves to swim. Despite the warts-and-all picture, it made me want to pack my bags and head south.” —Literary Review
“Thorpe allows a sense of folk magic to permeate, and his characters feel rustic in a timeless way because he transmits a real appreciation of the wild and how humans justify our interactions with other beasts … A gentle homage to rural life.” —New Statesman