Almost three days in Nice and one book

View from our windo, NiceWe’d booked our weekend in Nice long before I was felled by the flu but the timing couldn’t have been better. Four weeks after the first aches and shivers we were on the plane. It always lifts my spirits to see palm trees after a British winter and this time even more so. Nice turned out to be the perfect place for a recuperative few days: sun, an elegant esplanade to amble along – as long as you make sure to keep your back turned to Le Méridien – and lovely food.

Our apartment was in one of the old town’s winding narrow streets lined with tall buildings to keep out that forty degree summer heat which makes me quail just to think about it. Given my feeble state not much was got up to but we did visit the St Nicholas Russian Orthodox church on our first day and it’s quite fabulous. Owned by the Russian Federation, it’s in pristine condition outstripping Helsinki and Riga in its rather more restrained splendour by quite some distance. From the mid-nineteenth century Nice was firmly on the Francophile Russian nobility’s map which explains its rather surprising location. Given that the upper echelons of society spoke in French to each other, a Russian church in Provence makes perfect sense. That and the weather.St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Nice

Our only other bit of culture was a visit to the Matisse museum which charts his artistic development from the first rather gloomy still lifes to his vibrant cut-outs, although ironically many of those are currently on loan to Tate Modern for an exhibition due to open this weekend. We did see a sample of the stained glass which he designed for the windows of Chappelle du Rosaire de Vence, an ambitious project begun late in life which looks quite stunning.

Other than that we wandered around in the sun, climbed the wooded Chateau hill for lovely views of the city and its gorgeous bay (twice) and generally loafed about. Just what the doctor ordered! Many thanks to Allison Coe for her excellent blog which both whetted our appetites in the week before we took off and pointed us at La P’tite Cocotte – one of the few restaurants open on Sundays and just round the corner from us – where we had an excellent lunch before heading for the airport.  If you do find yourself in Nice, I advise you to do your damnedest to avoid using taxis – unless, of course, money’s no object.

Cover imageAnd the book? It was Attica Locke’s Baileys longlisted Pleasantville, picked because I was still feeling worn out and wanted something absorbing but not too taxing. Told from the point of view of the recently widowed Jay Porter, a black lawyer who first appeared in Locke’s Black Water Rising, the premise is a little reminiscent of The Killing with its missing girl coupled with political intrigue but the writing is far too cluttered for me: too many adjectives, too much description, too many similes. A shame, because the story itself is a gripping one. It’s published by the lovely Serpent’s Tail whose Under the Visible Life was one of my wishes for the Baileys longlist but sadly the judges disagreed with me just as they did over Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins, an astonishing omission from Monday’s shortlist.

I’m typing this listening to the sound of rain hammering on the skylight. Hard not to wish I was back in sunny Provence thinking about sauntering off into town for a café crème.  Back to books in a few days when I’ll be reviewing yet another thriller, this one beautifully clipped and succinct in its writing.

20 thoughts on “Almost three days in Nice and one book

  1. MarinaSofia

    I liked the book – compared to so many of the crime novels I read, it sounded really ‘grown up’, mature both in terms of subject matter and language. But yes, I can see why it might come across as cluttered. And I wonder if writing for the screen (she has been a writer for the Empire series), she will perhaps now change her writing style (as Pelecanos has after being involved with The Wire).

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Interesting to hear your comment about Pelecanos. I thought it could have lost at least fifty pages – I didn’t need to know what every character was wearing, including the color of each garment, for instance! However, I’m a great fan of pared back writing which predisposes me against so much detail. Great story, though, and compelling themes, too

      Reply
  2. sarahjasmon

    Yes about Pleasantville (plus, the murder seemed a bit incidental, in a way, and the denouement with the priest pretty much an afterthought). I might go back and read try Dark Water Rising, and will keep an eye out for the other Serpent’s Tail book you mentioned as well. Glad you’re feeling better!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thank you, Sarah, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t get on with Pleasantville. I think part of the problem may be that I read very little crime fiction but I was mystified as to why the Baileys judges had plumped for it although Black Water Rising was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.

      Reply
  3. helenmackinven

    Your trip sounds like just what you needed. I’ve been twice to NIce and LOVE it! When we went to the Russian church there was a funeral party leaving and we kept a respectful distance but it was interesting people watching. We also watched the locals play petanque up at the castle which was another great spot for people watching. I wandered around the Matisse museum but my husband stayed outside in the grounds preferring sunshine to art! I’d go back to Nice in a heartbeat and of course would take a good book too.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      It’s lovely, isn’t it! They’re still up on the hill – Sunday morning seems to be a particularly popular time for petanque. We had almost the opposite experience to you in Helsinki, watching a stunningly well turned-out wedding party arriving at the Russian Orthodox church.

      Reply
  4. kerry

    I’ve just spent a happy half hour googling lovely little hotels in Nice – your post made me want to hop on a train today.

    Reply
  5. JacquiWine

    Glad you had a good time in Nice, Susan. I’ve been a few times, and it’s lovely at this time of year. I saw an exhibition of Matisse’s cut-outs a couple of years ago – so vibrant and full of life, they almost quiver in front of your eyes.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thanks, Jacqui. I know what you mean about the cut-outs, particularly that gorgeous cobalt blue against a white background. I’m sure you must have sampled the Provence rosè when you were there too.

      Reply
  6. Naomi

    Your trip to Nice sounds lovely. So glad you’re feeling better.
    Too bad about the disappointments over the Baileys shortlist. There seem to be many who are surprised not to see God in Ruins on the list (and possibly a couple of others).

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thank you, Naomi. It was just what I needed! Still smarting from the Atkinson exclusion. Her work is extraordinary but always seems to be overlooked when it comes to literary prizes with the honourable exception of the Costa – I can’t imagine why. The other surprise omission for me was Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton.

      Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thank you, Cleo. It was such a treat to relax in the sunshine. Dry here today, and I’m hoping it’ll stay that way.

      Reply

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