Fool's Gold

Jane S. Smith, Author Zoland Books $24 (224p) ISBN 978-1-58195-019-9
The Peter Mayle-style fantasy of six months in Provence gets lightly sent up in nonfiction author Smith's (Patenting the Sun: Polio and the Salk Vaccine) debut novel. Manhattan Upper West Sider Vivian Hart, at loose ends after getting fired as a lecturer in ""eco-feminist art appreciation"" at a New Jersey night school, relocates her family on the basis of a cryptic New York Review of Books classified ad: ""Ideal sabbatical retreat in the South of France."" The retreat quickly turns into a rout in a contemporary French countryside rife with traffic-choked farm roads, avaricious and surly locals and a village shrunk to a highway truck stop. While Vivian fruitlessly researches her vague book on impressionists, sex and gardening, and her photographer husband, Richard, hunts for commercially picturesque sights and avant-garde shots, their two homesick children's secret discovery of a cache of Celtic gold ornaments touches off an archeological treasure hunt. Smith's cast soon expands to Angela Thirkell-like dimensions to include latest Metropolitan Museum of Art director Hugo Bartello and his new wife, a former model; a Brooklyn expatriate tramp who calls himself Flic-Flac; and the inevitable pair of bumbling young lovers, architecture school refugee Peter Wall and pseudo-intellectual au pair Ariel Sterns. Good-natured sarcasm throughout highlights Smith's quick-witted, precise prose. With gentle irony about Americans abroad and the French at home, Smith concocts a sunny comedy of manners, artistic motives and tourist migration. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/2000
Release date: 05/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 340 pages - 978-1-58195-035-9
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