This was one of the first Slightly Foxed Editions that I fell in love with. I was given it a few years ago at Christmas and it instantly transported me to two of my favourite places, the Far East and South of France. What could be better? Combine that with a large eccentric family and a hilarious nanny figure and I was in heaven.
Buy it here - although be quick, I hear that there are only a few of the cloth bound limited editions left.
Slightly Foxed will take over from there to give you more details:
This magical memoir, first published in the 1970s, tells the
story of a most unusual pre-war childhood. Suzanne St Albans’ family moved restlessly between the home her loveable but ill-assorted parents had created out of the ruins of an old Provencal farm house near Vence, and Assam Java, the plantation her father had inherited in Malaya.
Theirs was a self-sufficient world, for her father, a frail and intellectual recluse and quite the opposite of her impulsive, gregarious mother, found social life a dreadful strain and hid in the basement at the hint of visitors, while Marie, their severe but adored Swiss nanny, had a deep mistrust of ‘other children’. At Mas Mistral, with its dreamy garden and vine terraces, they were surrounded by a convivial but eccentric household of servants and helpers. In the steamy jungle heat of Assam Java, where electric storms thundered across the sky, animals almost took the place of people, for Marie was a keen naturalist. In the courtyard lived a menagerie of friendly creatures, some rescued, some adopted, including a stork who liked playing badminton, a small monkey, and Titi the pet hen, who, assisted by a small ladder, laid her eggs in the nursery wardrobe among the children’s clothes.
Back in France, the family spent idyllic summers on the long white beaches of the Atlantic coast in the company of family friends, and it was here that Suzanne experienced the confusions, embarrassments and misunderstandings of first love. The outbreak of war in the late summer of 1939 scattered their small group to the winds. It was the end of Suzanne’s childhood, and the end of this funny, observant and entirely original book. Her education may have been patchy to say the least, but as a writer she was clearly a natural.
During the 1920s and 1930s Suzanne St Albans’ family moved restlessly between the home in Provence and the rubber plantation in Malaya. In Provence they were surrounded by a convivial but eccentric household of servants and helpers, in Malaya the family’s adopted menagerie of birds and animals almost took the place of people. A funny, highly individual and observant book.