I'll begin this review by giving "Hotel Pastis" a total of SIX stars instead of the obligatory five. Stay with me and I'll explain why.
Being such an incredible fan of Mr. Mayle's previous books on Provence I was slighly apprehensive about his delving into the world of fiction. Untested waters to be sure but I held my breath and waited for "Hotel Pastis " to appear at my local book store. When it finally arrived I, without hesitation, picked up my copy and that evening sat down... ready to be disappointed.Obviously, quite the opposite has occured. Looking back over the past few years when I first read this novel I actually have to laugh at my apprehensiveness (ummm... is that a word?).
"Hotel Pasts" is, at least for me, one of the most enchanting, funny and in some small, strange way, romantic books I have read in many a year. Mr. Mayle simply makes you really care about the people that populate this book and you truly do want to see an "happy-ending"! The novel is written in an extremely fast-paced mode and moves along with the speed of sound! Never a dull moment! Without going into the plot of the novel, the main character Simon Shaw and his "man Friday" Ernest are both so cleverly drawn and fleshed out that I keep hopeing for a sequel to this work. Especially Ernest, part valet, part confidant, part friend and qualified Rolls-Royce mechanic is simply so fascinating that his character alone is worthy of a book.
Obviously,as in any Peter Mayle novel ( and in real life) things don't always go as intended for our "heroes" and that is where the fun truly begins. This book simply has it all...French comedy, romance, bumbling crooks, ex-wives, a malignant local journalist and, perhaps most important of all, the French country-side, in all it's glory. Perhaps, in some way, the villages of southern France are as much of the novel as the characters. Altogether an extemely well-rounded first novel that is as fruity and smooth as a bottle of pastis!
Do yourself a huge favor and run to your library or local book store and pick up your very own copy. I've bought countless copies as gifts and speaking for myself have read this wonderful book on 'six' seperate occassions. And while you're at it pick up a wonderful bottle of wine and an an Edith Piaf record. You may not be in France but...you certainly won't be home either! Bon Appetit!!