What Do You Do All Day? (or "Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again")
Thursday, October 31, 2002
What I Finished Reading Today:
Chasing Cezanne by Peter Mayle
This frothy, fun little mystery isn't in anywhere near the same literary league as yesterday's epic tome (see below), but if you're looking for a quick, delightful diversion, it's just the thing. The story centers on a globe-trotting art photographer, who accidentally happens to see a famous Cezanne painting being removed from its owner's home when it probably shouldn't be. The photographer makes a few inquiries among his art-world contacts, and after he and a genial dealer realize something fishy's going on, they start chasing after the painting to find out just what kind of nefarious plot is in the works. The chase takes them through New York high society, a couple of preliminary locations in Europe and the Caribbean and, finally and most descriptively, to Paris and environs, stopping at a great number of lavish homes, hotels and restaurants along the way.
All in all, the plot is pretty slight, just barely enough to hang a book on, but what makes it so much fun is that the point here isn't so much the details of the mystery, but the places it takes its entertaining characters and the meals they get to eat along the way. Most particularly, Mayle, who also wrote the descriptively lush non-fiction book A Year in Provence, uses the fictional concept as the basis for another lovely tour of France and its fine cuisine. And his obvious love for the country, for travel in general, and for all good things gustatory are evident at every turn. (Even a notorious art forger won't discuss business without meeting at the finest local restaurant and spending ample time and page space discussing the prospective meal...which is always delivered, consumed and praised in great detail as well.)
One should definitely not read this book if you haven't eaten or traveled well recently...because it's likely to make you want to pick up and head for France (preferrably for dinner...tonight). Of course, if you do want to be spurred into just such action, then by all means, indulge. Just keep a few tasty morsels on hand to munch while you read until you get there.