NOTE: I read this book in the original French.
I read this in a class on literature from the South of France, the “Midi.” This was a sweet, short book that really gives a feel for the flavor and culture of the region.
This book is more like a series of short stories, all set in the same general area and following the same narrator, but dealing with different characters and situations. The narrator, we soon gather, is a Parisian man who has decided to escape the daily pressures of city life to explore and enjoy the countryside. The stories, written as letters to a friend back in Paris, follow his adventures and day-to-day observations of the region. They’re very fable-like–you can clearly see where Daudet has been inspired by the narrative structures and tropes of folk tales and Aesop’s work (there are many talking/personified animals, and lots of neat and tidy endings with clear morals and messages that the reader is supposed to take away).
The stories deal with a range of themes–Daudet explores the role of women in this society, the tensions between the past and the present, the modernization of an ancient society, and the particular quirks of the South of France. Most of them are fairly humorous, with a slightly tongue-in-cheek tone.
Overall, this was a quick and enjoyable read. If you want to know more about the Midi, this book is a good place to start!