Good Reading : September 2007
46 goodreading ı SEPTEMBER 2007 coffee table In 1999 Sydney-based Vicki Archer and her husband David fell in love with a derelict farmhouse in a Provençal village, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, in south- western France.The 400-year-old stone house was uninhabitable, but over the years the Archer family has transformed it into a jaw-droppingly beautiful home, surrounded by manicured gardens, lavender beds, apple and pear orchards and an olive grove. And now, to celebrate her life in France,Vicki has collaborated with photographer Carla Coulson to produce a sumptuous book, My French Life. It’s a fitting tribute to a labour of love, and recently won the Australian Book Industry Award for Best Illustrated Book. Archer pays tribute to each of the skilled professionals and tradespeople who worked on the transformation of Mas de Bérard, from the architects to the tilers. (One of them, a stonemason called Faysel, would reply when asked how he was, ‘I am wonderful – the sun is shining and we are in Provence.’) She also pays tribute to France itself – to the cafés and bistros of Paris, the style of Frenchwomen, the festivals and feasts, the beautiful countryside – and to Saint-Rémy, birthplace of Nostradamus and home of Vincent Van Gogh during the last year of his life, where in his room in the psychiatric clinic he painted ‘Irises’ and ‘Starry Night’. Archer even shares her French address book with readers, letting us in on the best places to eat and shop, the best books about France to read, music about France to listen to, and films about France to watch. My French Life is a treat for all Francophiles! la belle france The 400- year-old Mas de Bérard, made of locally quarried limestone, in all its restored glory.