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Author:
• Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Peter Mayle was born in Brighton, England in 1939, the youngest of three children. He was educated at Brighton College, England, then at Harrison College Barbados, to where his father had been transferred as a Foreign Office employee.

Mayle left school at the age of sixteen and returned to England. In 1957 he was a trainee at Shell Oil in London before working as a creative director for BBDO, the world-wide advertising agency network based in New York City. In 1975 Mayle left his job to dedicate his time to writing books and in 1986 decided to move to the south of France.

A Year In Provence received the Best Travel Book Of The Year award in 1989 and Author Of The Year prize in 1992. Mayle was made a “chevalier de la légion d’honneur” by the French government in 2002 for his cultural contribution. He lives with his third wife and their two dogs in Lourmarin (Luberon) in France.

Peter Mayle has written several books that have been translated into a number of languages as well as articles for periodicals. A Year In Provence became a BBC TV mini-series in 1993 and A Good Year was made into a film directed by Ridley Scott and released in 2006.

The Marseille Caper is the second novel of a trilogy: The Vintage Caper in 2009, The Marseille Caper in 2012 and The Corsican Caper in 2014.

A tender for building on the last remaining seafront plot in sunny Marseille called “Anse Des Pêcheurs”, is the subject of a three-way dispute between Francis Reboul, the shady French billionaire who is hiding behind his American front-man, Sam Levitt, the sleuth in the Caper trilogy, William Wapping, a corrupt and bankrupt English Lord and former bookmaker cum thug, and Eiffel, a Paris based company represented by madame Caroline Dumas.

Elena Morales, the alluring, insurance agent from Los Angeles and Sam Levitt’s companion, is also invited by Francis Reboul to join Levitt as his guest in Marseille.

Sam Levitt presents himself to the members of the committee as an architect from an American company interested in the building project. William Wapping, who has been bribing his way through everything he wanted, will try bribery to win the “Anse Des Pêcheurs” project but to no avail. That is when he decides to play dirty in order to reach his target. When he discovers that intimidation brings no result he goes further by having his thugs knock Philippe, the journalist friend of Sam Levitt, off his scooter and as a last resort they kidnap Elena Morales.

Apart from the confrontation between the contenders and all the thrills involving the two finalists, the author takes the reader through the charming old narrow streets of old town Marseille and its old port, not forgetting the history of the whole of the south of France, recounted by Levitt which made Elena call him “a walking guide book”.

The author also describes good and unpretentious bistros serving delectable food as well as gastronomic restaurants with sophisticated delightful dishes and good wine, not to mention the constant flowing champagne and various pastries and bakery items.

The author describes French epicurism in detail, the slow pace of life in the idyllic sunny Mediterranean south of France and the “joie de vivre” encountered in this part of the world where food is taken very seriously.

An easy, enjoyable and entertaining, light-hearted read with a simple plot and a happy ending, written with a great deal of fondness by a south of France lover and a “bon vivant”. The book portrays the indulgence in a good life used to its fullest, a sort of an escapism from the everyday hectic routine elsewhere in the world.

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Author:
• Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Anita Shreve was born in Dedham Massachusetts in 1946 from an airline pilot father and a housewife mother. She graduated from Tufts University. She worked as high school teacher at Amherst College, Massachusetts. She started writing her novels while working. She was awarded an O. Henry Prize in 1975 for her book “Past The Island, Drifting”.

She then stopped writing fiction in the late 1970s and worked as a journalist in Nairobi, Kenya for three years. She wrote for Quest magazine, US magazine, New York Times and New York magazine. She decided to give up journalism and dedicate herself full-time to writing fiction. Her books were translated into many languages and she won The Pen L.L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction. She currently lives between Longmeadow Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Anita Shreve wrote several novels :
Eden Close in 1989.
Strange Fits of Passion in 1991.
Where or When in 1993.
Resistance in 1995.
The Weight of Water in 1997.
The Pilot’s Wife in 1998.
Fortune’s Rocks in 2000.
Sea Glass in 2002.

She wrote non-fiction books :
Dr. Balter’s Child Sense in 1985.
Dr. Balter’s Baby Sense in 1985.
Working Woman in 1986.
Remaking Motherhood in 1987.
Who’s in Control in 1988.
Women Together, Women Alone in 1989.

Kathryn is the pilot’s wife and she is the main character of the novel. The story is about her tragedy, her distress, her love, her deceit and her rage, and how she has to deal with the initial shock when she is woken up in the middle of the night by a knock on the door to be told by Robert Hart, the pilot’s union employee, that her husband died in a plane crash with 103 passengers, 10 miles off the coast of Ireland and that there were no survivors.

The novel is divided in two parts, the first half describes in simple, clear prose Kathryn’s struggle to deal with her shock, loss and grievance, while trying to pull herself together for the sake and protection of her 16-year old daughter Mattie, with the help of the kind Robert Hart.

This part holds some hints to prepare readers for what follows in the second half which is full of unexpected painful revelations, challenging Kathryn’s prowess to deal with the truth of her marriage and what has become of it. What appeared at the beginning to be a sad and quiet story turns out to be a gripping one, a thriller combined with the difficult defiance between loss, love and betrayal but also about some hope for the future.

Anita Shreve manages to make a good, captivating read out of a banal, common theme of betrayal and adultery.

Kathryn finds it very hard to bring together her happy memory of a stable, peaceful and uneventful married life in a beautiful home overlooking the ocean in Ely, New Hampshire, a bright teenage daughter, with a husband she cared for dearly, and thought that she knew, with the harsh deceitful reality of who Jack really was. A mixed feeling of grief and danger which triggers her determination to seek the truth at any cost after hearing all the unbelievable rumours, and after discovering various pieces of paper in Jack’s pocket and in his bath-robe with initials and phone numbers which she knew nothing about. She was ready to go through it all even if its outcome turns out to be devastating for her. In any case Kathryn knew that nothing will ever be the same again.

Anita Shreve portrays Kathryn’s confusion and disbelief in switching the chapters constantly from the present with all it’s unpleasantness and cruel devastation, to flashes of the serene, tranquil and more reassuring past. She has masterfully succeeded in conveying Kathryn’s feelings by contrasting the two lives through juxtaposition.

Anita Shreve’s books are often categorized under “women’s novels” due to her acquired art of describing women’s distressful feelings and sensibilities. The Pilot’s Wife appears to be a puzzle that Kathryn tries throughout the novel to unravel piece by piece. She thought she knew her husband but found out that she was living with a complete stranger she knew nothing about.

The readers are aware of that through what Mattie was telling her mother about the rumour that the pilot committed suicide : “Mattie you knew your father.” “Maybe”. “What does that mean ?” “Maybe I didn’t know him” Mattie said. “Maybe he was unhappy”. “If your father was unhappy, I’d have known.” “But how do you ever know that you know a person ?” she asked. What Kathryn didn’t know is that no matter how well you know a loved one intimately, there is always a little secret garden that each one keeps to oneself.

After meeting Muire Boland, Jack’s second wife and seeing their two children, Kathryn was overwhelmed with the sad and crude reality of her suspicion, which led her to drive all the way to the Irish coast, where the plane crashed. She decided to unburden herself from the weight she was carrying by throwing her wedding ring into the sea to join Jack at the bottom of the ocean. She wanted a new start by getting rid of the past and like that the healing operation can take place.

The Pilot’s Wife is an easy, readable book, the style is clear and simple. The plot was progressing well but then the author decided to end the story abruptly leaving a couple of loose threads untied.
The involvement of Jack with the IRA which led to the plane explosion was not explained sufficiently, and the relationship between Kathryn and Robert Hart was left undeveloped.

Anita Shreve was asked in an interview where did she get the idea for The Pilot’s Wife? She answered : “A novel is a collision of ideas. Three or four threads may be floating around in the writer’s consciousness, and at a single moment in time, these ideas collide and produce a novel… I overheard a conversation between a pilot and a woman at a party. Something he said lodged in my consciousness and wouldn’t go away. The thing he said was : When there’s a crash, the union always gets there first. He meant that when there was a crash of a commercial airliner, a member of the pilot’s union made it a point to get to the pilot’s wife house first. There are a lot of reasons for this, the most important of which is to keep her from talking to the press. And there was a collision of ideas.” which produced The Pilot’s Wife.

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