Hello to you all,

I am writing this from our home/office up north, east of Paris. The pic above was taken at the farm last week. We’ll be back down at the farm after the weekend.

It’s mighty hot here in the Seine-et-Marne region with the temps soaring to 34C yesterday and then an overnight storm that all but took the roof off this very old house, which some of you may know I have christened the Mad Old Chateau.

Here below is a pic through the open door taken from where I am working. The nature here is very different to Provence – no olive trees to begin with – but this little pond is a delight. Plenty of birds visiting including a great grey heron who lands, perches on one foot, peers into the water in the hope of  nabbing a fish. There are none. We have coots nesting in the pondside greenery and lovely waterlilies. I can work in this calm environment.

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My news is not plentiful due to the Covid-19 confinement – winding down now here in France – and the fact that I have been editing my new novel for publication April 2021. It doesn’t have a title yet. I had christened it AN ILLICIT ACT OF LOVE but my editor thinks that sounds a bit saucy so we we are back at the drawing board on that one. It’s not a saucy book, not at all. Set in the south of France, in a small village up behind Nice during WWII, it is the story of one young woman’s rather remarkable journey through loss and grief to love. And that is about all I can tell you for the time being, but there will be more over the next few months.

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This is the view from my outdoor desk at the Olive Farm –  out of the sun, beneath the Magnolia grandiflora tree.

So, in the meantime, as I am doing little besides sitting at one desk or another writing or pottering about on the land, I’ll talk a bit about one or two of the books I have been reading lately. I have been receiving lots of emails from you, as far afield as the States and Australia, saying that you have been buying and enjoying some of the books I have recommended during Covid. So, here are a few more.

Isabel Colegate is the author of The Shooting Party, which you may remember was a huge success when it was first published in 1980. It was made into a British film in 1985 with a stellar cast including James Mason and my own dear friend and working colleague, Robert Hardy. Colegate has written quite a few other novels including a trilogy centred around a character called Orlando King. Bloomsbury have just last week republished this trilogy in one big fat book, Orlando King. I have just finished devoured the first in the trilogy. If you love the Upstairs, Downstairs genre or Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey films and TV series, this will be right up your street. British society lived through the experiences of a handsome young man, born out of wedlock, brought up on an island off the coast of Brittany, France, Orlando King returns to London to make his fortune.  Set pre-WWII, the story is both a romp and a rather inciteful observation of British society on the brink of war. Colegate’s writing is graceful, stylish and assured. (And I love the jacket!)

I have also recently finished Patrick Modiano’s Villa Triste, first published in France in 1975. There s an excellent new English translation published by Daunt books.

Modiano is a French-Jewish author born in Paris in 1945. He deservedly won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2014.

A man, Victor, returns to the lakeside holiday and spa resort where at the beginning of the ‘60s, early days of the French-Algerian War, he first fell in love with a young local girl who had dreams of becoming a film star. How I loved this book. Modiano’s writing is magical, haunting and poetic. It drips with nostalgia. I walked with Victor every step of his remembered journey.

Not yet published in English – delayed due to Covid – but look out for it in English next year, A Bookshop in Algeria, published in French as Nos richesses. It was shortlisted in France for several major awards. It will be published by Serpent’s Tail on 27th May 2021. I will try to remind you. It is full of wonderful detail and literary figures from Algeria, Provence and Paris.

I have just been sent a brand new novel published by Lakeside Union, which is Amazon’s own publishing house. It is written by a friend of mine, Victoria Connelly. If its title is any indication of the  work within, it promises to be a great summer read, The Beauty of Broken Things.

Farm news: we have continued to plant trees. Our little project to grow a forest of oaks is coming along nicely. We have about 100 babies in pots in the greenhouse where on hots days the temp reaches 43C. Not ideal for small oaks, dear Michel spends half an hour every evening giving them plenty of water. Let’s hope they can survive this heatwave, la canicule.

We have cherries aplenty – this weekend Michel is going to make us Clafoutis grand-mère aux cerises. A to die for cherry flan.  Bang goes my much-needed diet. It is too delicious to resist. Most days, it is salads and lovely veggies from the garden. The apricots are ripening too, so kilos of jam will be the next to fill the kitchen shelves.

So, all in all, what simple but very pleasurable and rewarding days we are living. It counterbalances the madness and anger in the world at the moment. To those of you who have lost loved ones during this worrying time, I offer my condolences. I have attended three webcam funerals in the last month.

Enjoy and profit from every day.

By the way, we are not sending out Newsletters at the moment because they seem to get blocked. You can read these blogs here on my website.

Love to you. I hope summer is treating you well. Or winter if you are in the southern hemisphere where you will be enjoying the flowering of the jacarandas.

More soon,


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