Since I’ve only read one book by MFK Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf, I picked up Two Towns in Provence, two books bound into one. The two towns are Aix and Marseilles. But there is precious little about food here. These memoirs focus on the people in Fisher’s daily life in Southern France: the waiter at her favorite cafe, her doctor, the proprietress where she boarded, taxi drivers, a couple whose window faced theirs, fish wives, mendicants, students, even strangers whom Fisher repeatedly sees.
Fisher is a sculptor and words are her tools. She chips away the banalities and highlights the quirks and mannerisms unique to her subjects. Her characters are not wooden; they were warm and vibrant.
Both books would have benefited from stronger editing. Sections could have been cut, leaving a tight, cohesive memoir. I had to push myself through parts, knowing Fisher’s characters and turns of phrase would eventually reward me.
I am intrigued by the skilled synthesis of fast and slow people in this description of the Two Sisters restaurant in Marseilles (emphasis mine).
If you are a Francophile, you should probably read this book. For the rest, pick up one of Fisher’s other titles.