A quick visit back to Fogas for Christmas is one flyby trip we are dying to make!
Story in a nutshell
An Ebook novella is the perfect way to return to Fogas (fictional) in the French Pyrenees for a French themed wedding in the snow. Never mind the groom has cold feet and the caterers seem to be missing. What else could go wrong?
Place and setting
If a cosy but chaotic French village at Christmas time takes your fancy then this cosy read will take the chill from your nose and warm the cockles of your heart. It has everything of the famous French Fogas setting right there – the rural setting, the bumpy roads to the village, the post office, the stunning mountains and the crazy colourful characters. It’s the characters that make these stories come alive – their habits, sayings, way of life and way of looking at the world all make for some eye rolling and sighing of your own. That’s when you’re not snorting with laughter.
Whether you have been to Fogas before or not, this is a great introduction to life there or as we said before a flying visit to a wedding that you know is not going to go smoothly. Well, does anything go smoothly in Fogas?
Even as the novella opens the Cantonnier is having a problem with getting the perfect Christmas tree in the village and what with being surrounded by trees and mountains, you wonder why…
And then there’s the image that you just know is going to lead to trouble – the groom can’t dance. Who ever hear of a man being unable to dance on his wedding day? or a spice cake containing chilli instead of cinnamon?
The fourth in the series of the Fogas commune in France – a delightful and fictional commune set in the French Pyrenees
The first three books introduce the region and the characters and it does help if you’ve read the series in order – not that it spoils the plot but as with anything the more backstory you know leading up to the events here make for a more thrilling and amusing read.
We rejoin the residents of Fogas as they try to fight the bigger boys in order to keep the village independent – there are plans to effectively wipe the lovely community from the map – to merge them with Sarrat, their arch-rivals from across the river – and farmer Christian Dupuy is not a happy man.
Well he is at times as he is harbouring romantic thoughts for someone but is scared by his feelings and is unlikely anytime soon to declare his feelings. But with the threat of the community vanishing and the matter of one of the hottest summers in recent times, the temperature is as high as the tension and emotional ups and down of the Fogas villagers.
You definately need to read this book to understand what it means to live in a French village – the levels of bureaucracy and the ways of doing things is hard to explain at times but Julia obviously has lived the life of the characters – ie in a french village and auberge – hopefully not the more way out and extreme Fogas habits (hehe). This is one funny and amusing look at French village life. I SO want to live here! Julia adopt me!
Aah the food of Fogas..
“I repeat, you cannot put tomatoes in a cassoulet!’
The tourist spluttered into his pastis
aaah the mountain setting…
Black clouds simmered on the horizon behind the distinctive flat peak of Mont Valier, and although the sun had lost some of its ferocity as evening approached, an oppressive heat had settled on the region, stifling the mountain breezes that normally brought respite to the village of Fogas.
The life in the village – (the day after the party to celebrate Bastille Day and the opening of the post office – before they hear the news that Fogas could be merged….)
For the good people of the commune of Fogas, that sleepy community across the hills, which was slowly waking up from the excesses of the night before, this very letter was tantamount to a bomb about to be hurled among them’
Aah yes the village life and the characters you meet there – as well as the farmer we meet a gypsy who although has the gift of second sight, finds that she is helpless to use it to solve her own problems, the Brits who run the local bar – well they try to as they battle the famous French red tape. Oh and did we mention there is a ghost living in the epicerie fireplace?
A fete to remember takes you back to Fogas and back to the same characters but it develops their story and their characters so now we feel as if we know them perhaps better than they know themselves (Christian are you listening?)
Well what a lovely surprise, sitting here with a lovely cake ready to eat and a whole bunch of questions that our friend Julia has so kindly offered to answer. I put so much effort into making the cake yesterday, but well, things happen and I had, well a few problems with the cooking equipment. A bit of a disaster in the kitchen you might say. But let’s gloss over that shall we because Mr Sainsbury came to the rescue in the form of this little beauty –
So, with the books and the booktrail owl all set, come on in Julia and have a seat. Your cuppa and your cake await….
Here, I’ve got the posh napkins out all ready – it’s just like being in a real French cafe, isn’t it? (Booktrail towers is now decorated with bunting and French flags all ready for Julia’s arrival – we don’t mess around here you know)
Although Fogas is the fictional setting – can you tell us more about what places inspired it?
Fogas is set in the very real Ariège department in the French Pyrenees, down on the border with Spain and Andorra. This part of the Ariège is a land of soaring mountains and deep valleys and is very much a character in my books. Fogas itself is a commune of three separate villages, divided by geology, united (usually!) by politics and a desire to be autonomous. It is populated by fictional characters but based on so many of the political districts in that area.
How much of the Fogas trilogy is based on your own experience? You capture life in a French village very well – I mean I used to live in Cher region and a lot of what you write rings true. What do you find most endearing and most annoying about living in France?
I think most authors draw on their own experiences, even in the slightest of ways. So no doubt my time spent running an auberge in the ‘Fogas’ region has yielded lots of material – but perhaps not in the way you would expect. I’m an expert on the frustrating red-tape of French bureaucracy which features in my books and know a thing or two about hotel inspections (see L’Auberge!). But when it comes to the events in my books, they are mostly fiction. As for endearing and annoying aspects of French life? For me, the culture of lunchtime closing ticks both boxes. When you run a business and are 16km of winding mountain roads away from the nearest town, it can be a real bind. On the other hand, I love the fact that commerce doesn’t rule the roost and that lull in the day becomes quite a habit. I’ve been converted into a fan of the long lunch hour…
Which parts of France should a reader visit in order for them to experience your books in full?
Obviously, the Ariège. And more specifically, the Couserans section of that department which is in the south-west. I guess a trip to Brittany wouldn’t hurt either as Stephanie Morvan, one of my central characters, hails from Finistère. And Paris, perhaps? To get a taste of the life Fabian Servat leaves behind in The Parisian’s Return. Other than that, any rural town or village where there is a gathering of people at the bar, in the épicerie, playing pétanque… Listen to the passionate debate that will doubtless be taking place and you’re halfway to Fogas.
Can you recommend a French dish that they should eat when reading your books? A good wine?
Ha ha! Anyone who has read my books knows what’s coming next…Cassoulet! It features in nearly every book. Wine? Well, despite not being renowned for its vineyards, the Ariège is making great strides in producing wine and I can recommend anything from the Domaine du Sabarthès, especially Les Vignals rouge. We sold a lot of that in the restaurant at the auberge.
And can you tell us three French people and three British people (living or dead) you would invite to an Entente Cordiale themed dinner?
This is so tough. In the end I decided to go for a robust political debate because that’s what so much of the Fogas Chronicles is about. To further that end, I’m inviting a real-life friend, Monsieur Christian Guibert, retired shipworker from Saint-Nazaire and regular guest at our auberge. He’s a staunch communist, a natural raconteur, and if I say the donkeys in his region have no back legs, you can get a sense of his ability to talk! To provide balance, and simply because he has a namesake in all my books, I have to invite Sarko – the former president Nicolas Sarkozy, not the Fogas bull! To add to the spice, Queen Elizabeth I, whose relationship with France was rather stormy. And Madame de Pompadour, who could provide an insight into a woman wielding power in non-legitimate ways. Finally, two chefs who inspired me when I ran the auberge and who can provide fantastic food to distract from any tension; Rick Stein and Raymond Blanc. (Yes, the sharp-eyed amongst you have noted the imbalance of nationalities but I’m claiming the lovely Monsieur Blanc as a pseudo-Brit!)
Booktrail: Haha Donkeys with no back legs!? Perish the thought….
Favourite French language author?
Aghhh – again, so difficult to choose. Irène Némirovsky has to rate highly. Émile Zola, bien sûr. And the lesser known Georges-Patrick Gleize who writes about the Ariège as passionately as I do. But also a recently discovered contemporary classic, Michel Déon, whose The Foundling Boy is simply a joy. Oh, and Marc Levy of course…like I said. It’s difficult.
In your new book A Fête to Remember – It’s summertime and holiday season in the mountain commune of Fogas and deputy major Christian Dupuy is in love! What does this mean for Fogas?
Trouble! Because behind the blue skies and the peaceful sound of cicadas, a storm is brewing… But then everyone who is au fait with the earlier books in the series will know that Fogas always attracts trouble. Even when love is in the air!
The Fogas Chronicles so far have introduced us to a range of characters. Which ones feature in your new book? And do you have a favourite?
The stage is always crowded in the Fogas Chronicles and A Fête to Remember is no exception. It features all the usual suspects, including gruff Annie Estaque and soft-hearted Christian Dupuy. But we also get to know a few new characters. Perhaps foremost of those is Jérôme Ulrich, Préfet of Ariège and a very important figure in this book. As for a favourite, how can you even ask?! It’s an impossible question. Although, Tomate the cat, as the only real character, would have a large vote…especially as she is sitting next to me right now and monitoring every word!
Aaah you can’t help to immediately jump on a plane and go to find Fogas and all its characters. April 10th seems so far away! Until then I’m going to dip in and out of the first three to have a flyby visit to Fogas before the next longer stay. Thank you so much for coming over, and for the basket of cassoulet and wine! Aah you shouldn’t have. Well we will all tuck into this at Booktrail towers so would you like to take the rest of this cake with you? Go on, and take some British tea bags with you – well you know.
A first for the Booktrail today – a three step booktrail around the fictional Fogas in the French Pyrenees. All written by Julia Stagg who will be popping by for a slice of French sponge cake tomorrow. Best tell you about these fab reads so we can get baking then!
Set in Fogas, A fictional village in the French pyrenees, this is a story of an English couple, Paul and Lorna, moving in to a rural French community and trying as best they can to fit in. Fogas is a village you want to happen upon and stay for a while such is its charm despite it being more rural than rural itself –
There was no shop, no bar and even La Poste had been sensible and placed the commune post office in La Riviere. So apart from the cluster of houses which formed the village and the old communal washbasin with its continually running tap, Fogas was simply the base for the town hall
The young English couple have just bought the local Auberge, much to the horror of the locals who fear the English and their cooking in particular.
‘The Auberge has been sold to an outsider’
‘But why is a given that the restaurant will fail just because they are foreigners?’ demanded Christian
‘Because,’ Pascal relied in his lofty manner, ‘the new owners are English!’
The local mayor wants the property for his brother-in-law and is determined to drive the English out. As the couple settle down to life in France, we as the reader share their frustration with the French red tape, the rural attitudes, the shrugging of the French shoulders –
Merde merde and double merde
Johnny Hallyday makes a guest appearance too – no French village knees-up would be complete without him. And for those not familiar with Monsieur Hallyday, this gives an introduction to French culture you will never forget!
Want to know more?
The then Parisians return is your next read, starting off where L’auberge ended.
The focus shifts away from Paul and Lorna and almost immediately we meet a new character `Le Parisian’ who wants to make – gasp – changes – gasp – in the Epicerie and local bar. Stephanie, the waitress at the Auberge makes a welcome return – now getting her garden centre of the ground. She has a lot on her mind at the moment –
Stephanie Moran had never killed anyone before. Not that she knew of anyway.
What an introduction to the book! Stephanie it turns out is quite a character. When she tries to explain the intricacies of French law regarding the inheritance rules of the Auberge to Lorna-
Are you saying that if I died tomorrow, Paul wouldn’t inherit my half of the Auberge? Even though he’s my husband?
‘Yes, ‘e would. But only ‘alf of your ‘alf. The other ‘alf of your ‘alf would go to your family. And as you ‘ave no children, zat means your parents.’
In The French Postmistress, the focus shifts to Véronique, the postmistress, and her frustration concerning the new village post office. When Annie moans at the fact that the new office might involve getting foreign letters, Veronique steps in –
‘You wouldn’t have to! The town hall would rent the space and supply an employee to run it. Me!’ Veronique grinned at her own ingenuity.
Fogas is, as usual, a busy little place and life is full of twists and turns and no just those of the mountain roads. With the controversial government plans to reintroduce bears to the mountains, things in the village get even more heated and excitable than usual. There is also a special guest appearance by The Tour de France which is a nice touch.
The booktrail is not surprised people go looking for Fogas. When you read the books you will see it come alive before your very eyes.
For more information on Julia’s books, please visit her website at http://www.jstagg.com/fogas.html Be sure to stop over tomorrow for a slice of cake. Julia will be stopping by! See you then!