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The first chapter introduces the author, Robert, with a vivid and amusing description of his stressful London life. Strong characterisation of the people he works with gets the book off to an immediately absorbing start. Working at all hours in a tiny jewellers for a pittance, it becomes clear that the life he leads cannot go on as it is for much longer as his health and family life starts to suffer. A trip to France with a friend, Tom, who wants to buy a house there, gets him thinking. Descriptions of the French countryside and French way of life makes him realise the contrasts he is leading and has lead, and the life he could lead. Persuading his wife, Viv, takes a bit of time, but eventually the argument of the benefits of a new life for the children, Victoria and Keira, win through. Robert has to give up the business he's worked hard on, and 'take care' of a few people before he goes - evening up some old scores and improving the lot of others. The family let out their house, find one to rent in France and off they go, the journey to France hindered by a wobbly trailer.
However, the trailer gives them the perfect introduction to their subsequent life in France as, on their first night in France, the trailer collapses, necessitating a stay at a hotel full of friendly French people - a stay that extends as the local market 'traps' their car and trailer in the village! They arrive at their new house, deep in the heart of the south of France, in the middle of the summer. An introduction to their new life - tranquil and away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. Locals turn up and are introduced, and the girls have to be found a school. The family move to a house on a farm, and the farmer and his wife become surrogate grandparents to the girls, as well as to Robert himself. They begin to teach him the basis of living a rural life in France, from creating a vegetable plot from seed (with strict instructions to plant potatoes by moonlight), to butchering and preparing geese for the cut-throat foie gras market. Robert buys a ruin in the village and sets himself up as a builder.