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I expected it to be informative rather than entertaining but it turned out to be both. It's filled with anecdotes which I had never heard before. Virginia Woolfe's description of an afternoon on the rocks in Cassis is not something that would have made The Hours, but it's just as interesting to travellers, Cote d'Azur fans and bookworms.
The format is original and works well. The author starts with a short introcution to the Cote d'Azur and dives in from the west at Hyères, taking the reader on a literary journey to the Italian border via all towns along the coast (via a few villages in the hills).
Keep my trademark cynicism with me, I started reading casually with the intention of getting to Cannes and Nice and the towns I knew from my travels. What I soon found out was that towns like Grasse, Antibes and Menton figure in the rich literary history. For example, I didn't know that Robert Louis Stevenson knew the area well and wrote: "Mentone is one of the most beautiful places in the world and has always had a warm corner in my heart, since I knew it eleven years ago.
Even after Nice, where I thought the book would drag as the towns faded out, it actually became more interesting as lesser know facts emerged, such as Somerset Maugham's long association with Cap Ferrat or Karl Marx's thoughts on the casino at Monaco.
The author's had a great way of putting things (like describing tubercular authors "haemorrhaging their way along the coast") and the book also includes mini-biographies of the authors and a map of the coast. The title may be a little off-putting to non-scholars like myself, but in fact the book is a light and entertaining guide, unlike many author's biographies. It's part travel reading, part history, part biography and full of anecdotes told against the unique backdrop that is the Cote d'Azur. I highly recommend this book as a great read for travellers, and fans of both fiction and non-fiction.The French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travellers OverviewThe sunlight and the calm of the French Riviera have drawn countless writers into its embrace: the Cote D'Azur has provided inspiration and setting for some of the greatest literature of the nineteenth and twentieth century. The French Riviera offers a literary tour of the region, covering the lives and work of all the writers who found inspiration there--from Graham Greene and W. Somerset Maugham who spent their lives there, through those writers whose work it dominates such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Guy de Maupassant, to those who simply lingered there. Ted Jones' encyclopedic work covers them all, including Louisa May Alcott, Hans Christian Andersen, J.G. Ballard, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and W.B. Yeats.
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