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Featured Publication
for week ending 28th February 1999

Chasing Cézanne

By Peter Mayle

Cover of Chasing Cezanne

This is not a wine book but I enjoy Peter Mayle's writing (A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence), so when I saw this book reduced to half price in a sidewalk sale, I couldn't resist.

Peter Mayle is easy to read and the mystery this novel presented became so enthralling that I couldn't put the book down each evening until my eyes told me to stop.

The plot is centred around a Cézanne painting, Women with Melons., The hero André, a Manhattan photographer, while on assignment in France sees the painting being loaded into a van from a supposedly empty house. He takes photos and informs the owner as to the activities he witnessed. The owner seems unruffled by the news, but soon after strange events start to take place. André's house is ransacked. His magazine editor, with the unpopular name of Camilla starts to ignore him. He seeks the assistance of an art dealer, Cyrus Pine, who helps to unravel the mystery. And between trips to France, England and the Carribean the hero falls in love with his agent, Lucy. Together the intrepid trio embark on a journey of adventure, intrigue and forged art works, escaping death several times along the way.

However, as can be expected from an author who regards wine and food as part of every day life, there are one or two gastronomic interludes. Perhaps tiresome for those who want to get on with the mystery but fascinating for me. Even the villain is a gourmet who has a weekly ritual of dining on smoked salmon and Montrachet.

I particularly enjoyed Peter Mayle's philosophy on The French Paradox through the voice of one of his characters. What he says is utterly logical and makes a lot of sense. I quote from the book ...

 

"...Red wine has less to do with it (the French Paradox) than people think. Obviously what you eat and drink is important, but it is how you eat and drink. Food for most Americans is fuel - eat in the car, eat on the street, finish dinner in fifteen minutes. Food for the French is treated as a pleasure. They take their time over it. They concentrate on it. They like being at the table and don't eat between meals ....."

 

This book begs a sequel. I got to the end of the words and thought 'What happens now?. Do André and Lucy get married? Will Camilla ever speak to André again? Is the Cezanne safe?' Plus many more unanswered questions. In fact I felt a bit flat, to tell the truth, after the books sudden and abrupt end on page 245 especially after all the promise and enjoyment of the previous 244 pages.

Chasing Cézanne was first published in 1997. ISBN 0-241-13765-9 or Trade Paperback ISBN 0-241-13773-X. My copy was published by the Penguin Group.


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