A Year in the Province

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Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence created a whole genre of non-fiction tales about couples heading off to the Mediterranean to renew their zest for life—this absurd literary comedy turns that tradition on its head This glorious comic homage presents the ridiculous yet heroic figure of Jesús Sánchez Ventura, an Andalusian peasant whose wife Begoña tires of the heat, the lemons, and the tranquility of Spain, and who persuades the family to relocate to Belfast. So begins a literary romp combining the verbal playfulness of Flann O'Brien with the poignant and misguided optimism of Don Quixote. Our hero Jesús quickly establishes himself in Belfast, mysteriously finding a position at the local university and eagerly making friends with his new Northern Irish neighbors. Completely unaware of the history of the region, he stumbles from one confusing conversation to another, doing his best to protect his delightful yet mischievous daughters Concepción and Dilatación, but becoming increasingly concerned as Begoña develops a talent as an entrepreneur and spends more and more time away from the house.


Christopher Marsh teaches history at the Queen's University in Belfast.