Peter Mayle, Francophile author of ‘A Year in Provence’, is dead at 78

Mayle’s tale of his midlife relocation to a rural French village - populated with farmers, mushroom hunters and donkeys - struck a nerve with fans of the expat lifestyle

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 January, 2018, 9:59am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 January, 2018, 10:42am

Peter Mayle, the British author whose midlife relocation to France inspired his bestselling A Year in Provence and other works set in his adopted country, died Thursday at age 78.

Publisher Alfred A. Knopf announced that Mayle died after a brief illness in a hospital near his home in the south of France.

A Brighton native, Mayle was in his late 40s and had worked in advertising and in educational publishing when he moved to France in 1987, planning to write a novel. But, as he told The Guardian in 2010, he was so caught up in the new world around him – “the farmer next door, the mushroom hunter and the lady with the frustrated donkey” – that he wrote to his agent, Abner Stein, telling him that the novel wasn’t working out.

“Eventually I sent Abner a long letter, largely inspired by guilt, trying to explain why I hadn’t even started the novel, listing some of the distractions,” Mayle explained. “To my enormous surprise and relief, he wrote back saying that if I could do another 250 pages like the letter, he might be able to find a publisher.”

A Year in Provence, released in 1989, was a word of mouth success that sold millions of copies, was adapted into a miniseries by the BBC and was credited with opening up a market for such other expatriate stories as Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun.

Mayle’s other books included the children’s stories Where Did I Come From? and What’s Happening to Me? and the novel A Good Year, adapted by Ridley Scott into the 2006 movie of the same name, starring Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard.

In recent years, Mayle completed a quartet of Caper novels: The Vintage Caper, The Corsican Caper, The Marseille Caper and The Diamond Caper.