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You know sometimes in life, something happens, and somewhere, deep inside of you, the parts click and align, and you know that this is going to lead to something wonderful.

It might be seeing your future partner for the first time, having a great job interview, or meeting a new person with whom you have a great rapport from the minute you start talking.

You know it’s all good and it’s going to make you happy.

So, it was the first time I read ‘My French Life’ by Vicki Archer. An experience that began the slow burn to setting up this website where my reviews help you create a reading pile of your own French fancy.  

But let me paint the scene as I fell for that first book.

I must have been in my late thirties, early forties. I was in a great place. My partner and I had some land with a house that, ahem, how shall I put this, ‘would keep us busy for some time’ and life was very good here in New Zealand/Aotearoa. Everyone was safe and healthy, and it was the start of our summer holidays.

Summer in New Zealand/Aotearoa really kicks off after Christmas. The long lazy southern hemisphere months of January, February and March are our summer down here. I had a few weeks off work over Christmas, with no commitments and the days just drifting past until it was time to think about dinner.

I had done some of my gift shopping in a boutique bookshop. Exotic coffee table books, books about subjects that I will never read about (but which I still must pick up and read the back), books about cooking, books about travel and then suddenly, a book with a winter black and white cover.  

It caught my attention. The back view of a chic woman clad in winter black with kitten heels on a city street. A metro station to her left and grey urban landscape to the right. A black umbrella against the rain and a slash of red lettering: “My French Life”.

I bought it for me. For the pure pleasure of having such a beautiful book.

What happened next?

Over the Christmas break I thought about the book. I anticipated reading it. I flicked through the pages, felt the raised lettering of the cover font, and allowed my eyes to linger on a few photos.

Reading this book required the right chair, the right coffee and fine China cup and the right quietness. I needed myself to be unhurried and receptive to relaxation. A packet of chocolate biscuits would also prove helpful.

Vicki Archer, who lived just across the Tasman Sea from me in Sydney, Australia, went with her family in 1999 to Saint-Remy-de-Provence and ended up buying a house.

“My French Life” tells the story of that journey. The discovery and purchase of a 400-year-old farmhouse and land, Mas de Berard, its restoration from dereliction to a family home and how it influenced and changed her – how her life evolved into her French life.

The photos took me there. The house itself, the replanting of the gardens, the decoration, the craftspeople, the scents of the land, the discoveries, and the differences. The life.

Her decision to renovate the house was impulsive. It felt natural, the right thing to do. She felt it was meant to be. It was love at first sight and it could not be ignored.

It stopped me in my tracks – I felt so suburban, so risk adverse. I might dream about escaping my life and starting a new life in France, but Vicki did it.

She was the first author who put into words and photos something I hadn’t even known that I wanted.

Vicki introduced me to a way of life most of us can only dream of. She writes in a way that makes you know you would get on with her if you had a coffee together. It’s authentic, thoughtful, and family oriented.  

She has gone on to write a further book [French Essence: Ambience, Beauty, and Style in Provence (2010) – yes, I have that also] and has a very successful online presence.


Don’t get me wrong. I love my life and where I am up to in it.

It’s just that every Christmas I make sure I get some quiet time to myself, and I sit under the shade of a Pohutukawa tree (New Zealand Christmas Tree) and do some French dreaming.

I hope you enjoy 'Books About France'!


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