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|New York Times, 30th July 2006: click here to read Staff writer Seth Sherwood’s article The Barefoot Riviera, which refers exclusively to THE FRENCH RIVIERA: A Literary Guide for Travellers.|
The Sunday Times - Books June 27, 2004
RIVIERA: The Rise and Rise of the Cote d’Azur
THE FRENCH RIVIERA: A Literary Guide for Travellers
(...) Ring’s inability to register the humour in Fitzgerald’s swanky letter comes as no surprise in a book that reads like a hastily executed synthesis of familiar material, written with no great affection for the Riviera and with no hint that its author has spent more time there than was strictly necessary.
Happily, Ted Jones has written a very different guide to the area.
Thoughtful, entertaining and vivid, Jones’s The French Riviera sweeps us along the coast as elegantly as one of the magnificent automobiles in which pioneer drivers tested the nerves of their passengers as they twisted along the heights of the splendid road built for Napoleon. Jones has spent time talking to local archivists and historians, trekking in the footsteps of his literary heroes, visiting their former homes. Through his inquisitive eyes, we see Hyeres as it was in the days of Edith Wharton (whose garden there is still lovingly maintained) and Robert Louis Stevenson, who said that he was never happier than when he lived there at the Chalet de la Solitude, still ravishing despite its view of a busy airport. Cap Ferrat comes to life as Jones describes Nietzsche strolling along its old donkey track before he climbed the cliff to the eyrie of Eze, pondering how to conclude And Thus Spake Zarathustra.
Ugly and built-up though much of the Riviera has become, a carefully picked view can still take you back to the days when the Romans built their summer villas on cliffs overlooking a sunlit sea. Jones’s book is sad only because it reminds us of how much of the Riviera’s tranquil beauty has been sacrificed in the cause of bringing in tourists. “Sun, roses, fruit, warmth. We bathe and bask,” wrote Aldous Huxley during his happy years at the sleepy and sweetly misspelt Villa Huley. He spoke for a multitude of writers who had discovered that work need not be all drudgery.
“It is hot, the sun is shining, the windows of my bedroom are wide open — and those of my soul,” strikes a more Russian note. Chekhov wrote this when he was living in Nice and finishing The Three Sisters. Virginia Woolf, staying with her sister at Cassis, found inspiration for one of her finest works, The Moths, as she watched them fluttering around an oil-lamp at dusk. Kipling, less elegantly, penned a limerick about the young ladies of Nice, while Harpo Marx enjoyed George Bernard Shaw’s company so much that he offered his services as a regular chauffeur during Shaw’s Riviera visit in 1928.
Connolly, Fitzgerald, Conrad, Colette, Cocteau, D H Lawrence, Maugham, Maupassant, Merimée, Nabokov: the list of literary lovers of the Riviera almost beggars belief. It is delightful to have their eloquent, acerbic, lyrical responses collected here, in a book that deserves to become a favourite with all travellers to France’s most lovely, most ravaged and most avaricious resorts.
San Francisco Chronicle (8/8/2004)
"The French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travellers,'' by Ted Jones (I.B. Tauris, 244 pages, $24.95). There's more here than you need to know about writers sunning themselves in the South of France, but this book is unsurpassed in literary name-dropping: "Cocteau came to see Colette on her last trip to the Hotel de Paris, but he was no stranger to the hotel: he had met Coco Chanel there in the 1920s, had worked there with Orson Welles and was introduced to opium there in 1924. ... There's so much more...
A great book for travellers and book fans, May 5, 2004
At first I was sceptical about this book. As someone who knows the South of France quite well, and an avid reader, my expectations were high, but this book didn't disappoint me, to say the least.
I expected it to be informative rather than entertaining but it turned out to be both. It's filled with anecdotes which I had never heard before. Virginia Woolfe's description of an afternoon on the rocks in Cassis is not something that would have made The Hours, but it's just as interesting to travellers, Cote d'Azur fans and bookworms.
The format is original and works well. The author starts with a short introduction to the Cote d'Azur and dives in from the west at Hyères, taking the reader on a literary journey to the Italian border via all towns along the coast (via a few villages in the hills).
Keeping my trademark cynicism with me, I started reading casually with the intention of getting to Cannes and Nice and the towns I knew from my travels. What I soon found out was that towns like Grasse, Antibes and Menton figure in the rich literary history. For example, I didn't know that Robert Louis Stevenson knew the area well and wrote: "Mentone is one of the most beautiful places in the world and has always had a warm corner in my heart, since I knew it eleven years ago.
Even after Nice, where I thought the book would drag as the towns faded out, it actually became more interesting as lesser know facts emerged, such as Somerset Maugham's long association with Cap Ferrat or Karl Marx's thoughts on the casino at Monaco.
The author's had a great way of putting things (like describing tubercular authors "haemorrhaging their way along the coast") and the book also includes mini-biographies of the authors and a map of the coast. The title may be a little off-putting to non-scholars like myself, but in fact the book is a light and entertaining guide, unlike many author's biographies. It's part travel reading, part history, part biography and full of anecdotes told against the unique backdrop that is the Cote d'Azur. I highly recommend this book as a great read for travellers, and fans of both fiction and non-fiction.
The Sunday Times (1.2.2004)
The French Riviera by Ted Jones
There are two views of the French Riviera. One says it's an overdeveloped blot on the landscape; the other that it is the epitome of style. If you veer towards the latter, and enjoy literary history, this book is for you.
It is arranged according to place, seepimg along the coast from Hyeres in the west, beloved of Edith Wharton, Robert Louis Stevenson and many others, to Menton by the Italian border, which Katherine Mansfield called 'a lovely little town, small and unreal'. Drawing on the stories of more than 150 writers, Jones does a great job of buffing up the legend.
The Times Literary Supplement
THE FRENCH RIVIERA A Litererary Guide for Travellers
It is easier to picture H.G. Wells being chauffeur-driven in a Hispano-Suiza to an amatory assignment at the Hotel Negresco at Nice than it is to think of John Milton calling in at Nice on a felucca, at some risk from corsairs, on his way to Italy in 1638. The images in this book of writers at large on the Côte d’Azur are as eclectic as they are, sometimes, disconcerting. Who could not be impressed by the hill-top village of Cabris, near Grasse, where “the ratio of writers - and certainly of Nobel Literature prize winners - to its 1,300 residents is one of the highest in the world”, with streets named after Gide, Camus and Saint-Exupéry? The clue: a Luxembourg industrialist founded a colony there for intellectuals.
All too many writers descended on the Riviera to seek pulmonary cures (Robert Louis Stevenson, D.H. Lawrence, Yeats, Katherine Mansfield), badly misjudging the supposed benefits of the climate. Others came to seek local colour, to gamble, to escape taxes or social ostracism (“a sunny place for shady people”: Maugham). Ted Jones, a journalist based in Villefranche, follows their many spoors, resort by resort, a method which leads to some repetition, as with Graham Greene’s J’Accuse. But there is much to relish. At Cannes, in the evacuation flap of 1940, Maugham and E. Phillips Oppenheim (whose 150 crime novels, some say, did the Riviera no favours) are offered escape on an overcrowded, filthy collier with only two lavatories: Maugham accepts and reaches safety, “Oppy” declines and has a bad year in which to repent. Mystery-lovers can join in wondering how Proust’s secretary, Alfred Agostinelli, calling himself “Marcel Swann”, came to drown in an aircraft off Antibes with his pockets full of banknotes. The uncharitable will smirk to find Sylvia Plath exulting at Vence over a pure white chapel which Evelyn Waugh calls “the Matisse public lavatory cocktail bar chapel”. Arnold Bennett’s admirers may wonder whether his “only published poem”, a high-flown Riviera nocturne, usefully extended his range.
The author is assiduous in recording who wrote what where and when, in seeking out memorial plaques and mourning lost landmarks. He jokes about “the friendly trill of the time-share salesmen” in resorts otherwise notable only for the clicking of crickets and word-processors. Which suggests that the literary industry is still beavering away out there.
Salt Lake City Tribune
Riviera Literary guide
Some travel guides offer the basics. Others, such as Ted Jones' The French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travelers, weave the works of other literary giants into a narrative that gives a sense of history of a place.
Jones' book provides glimpses of works by writers such as Agatha Christie, Joseph Conrad, Ian Fleming, Aldous Huxley, Ernest Hemingway, Victor Hugo and James Joyce and their feelings about the French Riviera.
The book costs $24.50 and has been published by Palgrave Macmillan.
San Diego Books
The French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travellers
Frequent Flyer Magazine
Splendor in the Sun Of all the great places in Europe (or in the world, for that matter) what can compare with the sheer sybaritic splendors of the French Riviera? Even the name itself, Cote d’Azur, slipping trippingly off the native tongue, has a glamorous ring to it.
The palm-fringed beaches of Cannes, Nice, Monaco and the other magical Mediterranean coastal towns and villages of sun-swept southeastern France are lovingly described by travel journalist Ted Jones in The French Riviera (Palgrave Macmillan, $24.50).
Much more than the typical nuts-and-bolts guidebook, Jones’ treatise wends its way along a literary tour of the region, connecting the dots between an author and a place on the Riviera where he or she lived or visited frequently and that influenced a particular work. It’s an interesting concept and one that works quite well.
Among the literati included who found inspiration on France’s sun-drenched coast are such famed international luminaries as Jean-Paul Sartre, Guy de Maupassant, F. Scott Fitzgerald, W. Somerset Maugham, Alexandre Dumas, Georges Simenon, Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, Rudyard Kipling, Aldous Huxley, Jean Cocteau, James Thurber, Oscar Wilde and many more—a veritable Who’s Who of the world of literature.Will success (read rampant tourism) spoil the stretch of cherished coastline? No, concludes author Jones. “The Cote d’Azur will last,” he writes, “because it is not so much a place as an environment. It inspires writers just as its light galvanized its migrant painters—so much so that many were unable to channel its intensity until after they left. As Colette said, ‘One does not write a love story when one is making love.’”
The French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travellers
Synopsis: This one-of-a-kind literary travel guide to the Riviera is refreshingly accessible and enthusiastic, with a full literary bibliography of works and authors cited. The sunlight and matchless calm of the French Riviera have drawn countless writers into its embrace: the Cote d'Azur has provided inspiration and setting for some of the greatest literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The French Riviera offers a literary tour of the region, covering the lives and work of all the writers who found inspiration there--from Graham Greene and W. Somerset Maugham to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Guy de Maupassant. Ted Jones' encyclopedic work covers them all, including Louisa May Alcott, Hans Christian Andersen, JG Ballard, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and W.B. Yeats.
Ted Jones is a writer and journalist.
"The French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travellers"
(I.B. Tauris/Palgrave Macmillan; $24.50)
The number of writers associated with the French Riviera is legendary--and impressive. They include exiles and visitors from Britain (Robert Louis Stevenson, D.H. Lawrence, W. Somerset Maugham, P.G. Wodehouse, Graham Greene) and Ireland (James Joyce, Oscar Wilde), native Frenchmen (Jules Verne, Guy de Maupassant, Victor Hugo, Andre Gide, Georges Simenon) and Americans trying to escape the clutches of Prohibition (Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald). Author Ted Jones tells us that the Riviera, or Cote d'Azur in French, has been a magnet for writers for some 700 years. Dante passed through the region. So did John Milton, en route to Genoa. Tobias Smollett put Nice on the literary map, although nowadays it is movie stars and other celebrities who seem to congregate. Jones makes stops in Hyeres, Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Monaco, Menton and elsewhere along the 120-mile coastline. To keep track of who's who and who lived where, the author includes a useful list of short profiles. (ISBN 1-86064-967-X)
JUNE SAWYERS, CHICAGO TRIBUNE (Same as Chicago Tribune)
SCRIBBLERS IN THE SUN
Patrick Middleton has been reading a new survey of literary settlers on the Côte d'Azur. Painters, we know, came to this region largely for the special quality of the light. Writers had more diverse motives: a vain belief in the curative properties of the Riviera climate brought the tubercular to places like Menton which Thomas Carlyle in the mid-Victorian years called "Britain's overseas sanatorium"; then there were the fugitive buggers and other moral outcasts who sought and found a more tolerant society than that which they had left along with, maybe, new opportunities. This was the case of Oscar Wilde who, released from jail, settled in La Napoule to resume his writing but was soon diverted by the town's "strangely perfect fisher-lads"; in more recent times others were in flight, along with hard-eyed men who'd made fortunes in business, from the attentions of the British and other north European tax authorities; and some were attracted simply by "the sunlight and calm".
"Full of odd scraps of information"
Inspiration on the Riviera, March 26, 2004
Ted Jones' review of writers who spent time in the very South of France, is a masterly and unique approach to a subject previously unexplored in any coherent depth. The writer is clearly a man with a passion for literature (and the South of France) and an enthusiastice desire to place the writers in their context, realising that in order to understand their writings it in necessary to understand the influence of the places in which they have lived. Particularly impressive was his attention to detail, and one can imagine the years of painstaking research, obviously carried out with enormous pleasure, to discover previously hidden aspects of intimate events in the lives of well-known writers.
Anyone interested in those associated with the Riviera will revel in this literary companion. It is an essential and perceptive guide to include in ones luggage.