The House in France: A Memoir
“. . . you, darling, will positively love reading The House in France: A Memoir by Gully Wells. . . . as F. Scott Fitzgerald supposedly once wrote, ‘The rich are different than us.’ And that’s what makes this book so divine.”
If you love reading Vanity Fair every month and devouring the delicious articles about people with blue in their blood while not knowing who the hell they are, then you, darling, will positively love reading The House in France: A Memoir by Gully Wells.
The story is supposed to be about Gully’s—her name is really Alexandra, but the British oh, so love those funny nicknames like Pussy and Beegoonie—family summer home in Provence, but the author takes you on a journey through London and New York as well.
And why wouldn’t she?
This witty memoir gives a starring role to Ms. Wells’s slightly crazy-in-a-fun way (or is she just mean?) mother Dee Wells, an ex-pat rebellious American journalist, and A. J. Ayer, the celebrated (we must take her word for it) Oxford philosopher—and the life they lived.
There are lots of marriages and affairs and divorces and lovers and children, parties, and famous (English) authors and social climbers, and cocktails, and fights—that make the reader slightly dizzy trying to keep up.
But it’s still fun.
If you were born on this side of the pond, the best part of the book will probably be spent on the pages that take place in the summer home perched on a hill between Toulon and Marseille in Provence.
“Every summer for almost twenty years I would gather up my children and take them to stay with their grandmother in her house in France. There they would do the things that children do—paddle in the inflatable pool set up beneath an ancient lime tree, throw bits of baguette at the bloated goldfish, swing in the hammock, and if they were really bored, push handfuls of gravel through the holes in the hubcaps of her car.”
Ms. Wells is the features editor at Condé Nast, and it shows. Her descriptions about the food and wine of France leap off the page, and Francophiles will eat it up like slivers of Gruyère and stuffed olives.
Woven throughout The House in France are summers spent at La Migoua, the old farmhouse in France, where evenings were wiled away cooking bouillabaisse with fish bought that morning in the market in Bandol, and afternoons included visits to M. F. K. Fisher’s favorite café on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix, with a late-night stop at the bullfighters’ bar in Arles. “On vie bien en Provence!”
The crazy, sordid lives of the slightly rich and very famous (again, in England) is utterly fascinating, making the reader wonder how the English earned such a reputation for being prudes.
Throughout the book, Ms. Wells tries to show that her life was always glamorous and seeming easy, but with a scheming, shrewish, and slightly disturbed mother and two cheating fathers, there had to be a bit of therapy going on at some point. But no matter, as F. Scott Fitzgerald supposedly once wrote, “The rich are different than us.”
And that’s what makes this book so divine.