I arrived in France bookless. Which is to say I just couldn’t get into Look Homeward, Angel, a brick I’d been lugging around since Chiang Mai.
Chris, Stephanie’s Mom, checked out Les Pages Jaunes, and found a place in Cannes called The English Bookshop. Sounded promising. So one morning while Stephanie had an appointment, Chris and I went looking for a copy of 1491, I book that had recently caught my attention.
They didn’t have it—the shop was smallish, and what non-fiction they did have was confined to celebrity biographies and WWII histories (they clearly know their audience). There was a long wall of popular fiction that I didn’t have much interest in, but I did see a bookshelf of Francophile titles, and immediately Peter Mayle’s books caught my eye. I’d read A Year in Provence prior to my last trip to France and found it enjoyable. It was first published in 1989, and since then Mayle has written many more books, most drawing on his experiences in France.
He’d written two more books specifically on Provence, a trilogy of sorts, so I picked up the second, Toujours Provence, which I thought would at least tide me over until I could place an order on Amazon.fr. Le Cannet and the surrounding environs are more Côte d’Azur than Provence, but the Provençal culture permeates the entire south of France, so it seemed like an appropriate selection.
The chapters are less thematically related than A Year in Provence, each more or less a characteristic glimpse into Mayle’s experience living there. One particularly funny chapter, The English Écrevisse, described some of the interactions he had with various “fans” after his first book was published. So you can only imagine my surprise when I started reading the following:
The voice on the other end of the phone could have come all the way from Sydney, cheerful and twangy. ‘G’day. Wally Storer here, from the English Bookshop in Cannes; plenty of Poms down here and your book’s going nicely. How about coming along to sign a few copies one day during the Film Festival?’
How crazy is that, to unexpectedly find myself reading about the bookstore in the book I bought in that very bookstore!
More than 20 years later, according to the card I got with the book, it appears that Wally Storer is still running the English Bookshop. Sadly he was out the day we stopped by—the man in the shop said he was filling in for a friend.