At Home in France
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"As beguiling and delectable as France itself."
"Ann Barry tells her tale directly and clearly, without cloying artifice or guile, so that it has the warmth, honesty, and force of a long letter from an old friend. She makes her reader a welcome house guest in her much-loved little cottage in the heart of France."
*Susan Allen Toth
Ann Barry was a single woman, working and living in New York, when she fell in love with a charming house in Carennac in southwestern France. Even though she knew it was the stuff of fantasy, even though she knew she would rarely be able to spend more than four weeks a year there, she was hooked. This spirited, captivating memoir traces Ms. Barry's adventures as she follows her dream of living in the French countryside: Her fascinating (and often humorous) excursions to Brittany and Provence, charmed nights spent at majestic chateaux and back-road inns, and quiet moments in cool Gothic churches become our own.
And as the years go by, and "l' Americaine," as she is known, returns again and again to her real home, she becomes a recognizable fixture in the neighborhood. Ann Barry is a foreigner enchanted with an unpredictable world that seems constantly fresh and exciting. In this vivid memoir, she shares the colorful world that is her France.
"AN INTELLIGENT MEMOIR."
*The New Yorker
"DELIGHTFUL . . . BARRY WRITES ENGAGINGLY. . . . [She] is very much at home in such fine company as M.F.K. Fisher's Two Towns in Provence, Robert Daley's Portraits of France, and Richard Goodman's French Dirt.
*St. Louis Post-Dispatch
pay (by credit card, of course) the expenditures for the towing, but that I would be reimbursed by Avis. Second, I had the option of taking another rental car if I needed it, or—he pointed across the way—simply taking the métro into Paris. The métro! It was right here! I was elated to be relieved of the car. Suddenly, after the excruciating march of time since dawn, things were moving forward at an amazing clip. I signed all the papers. Was there anywhere I could get lunch? I asked. It was
surprise crossed their faces at the gift of wine. They made no response, leaving me wondering if they were pleased or somehow offended. Madame turned immediately to the kitchen. Monsieur put the bottle on a side cupboard and invited me to table. Serge, their son whom I’d only encountered on a few occasions, was slumped in a chair and greeted me with a perfunctory nod. Françoise was lackadaisically setting the table. She explained, with a pout, that Kati was the lucky one, waiting tables at a
china saucer, containing the juice of a couple of freshly squeezed lemons. Alongside is a sugar pot, a pitcher of cold water, and a spoon. You add water and sugar to taste, and stir it up. It’s fresh and tangy, but it’s the ritual that makes it elegant. As the time neared four o’clock we strolled back to the ramparts. The buses were still empty; only a few early stragglers had made their way back. I approached the group of drivers again. The driver of the bus that had Charleston locked in was on
me? What would they think of the transformation of Pech Farguet? I imagined them standing in a line outside the house, their faces ruddy and weathered, their rough hands soiled from labor in the fields. Jean Frêne, Jean Bayssen, Antoine Malbet, Jean Bouat. “Je suis heureuse de faire votre connaissance,” I say, in my proper schoolgirl’s French. They extend their elbows out of politeness. But I shake their hands, feeling the gritty earth. I invite them in and they are surprised, amazed at the look
woman with feathery, cropped white hair, piercing blue eyes, and a hawklike expression. She reminded me slightly of Phyllis Diller. She seemed ecstatic to meet me and led me by the arm, in a conspiratorial fashion, to the curtained window, where, she said, in a barely contained whisper, I could secretly observe le tournage. And I was invited to return, whenever I wanted, any day, anytime. Did I know, by the way, she asked, as if she was imparting only to me a well-kept secret, that Elisabeth