By Michael Jacobs, Photographs by Hugh Palmer
Thames & Hudson, $26.95, 208 pages

The small towns of France, like many throughout Western Europe, are eminently photogenic. Narrow cobblestone streets and alleys, hidden stone fountains and stairs, terracotta roofs, intimate ironwork balconies and shaded public squares, medieval cottages and chapels, Roman ruins – all add up to a visually pleasing landscape that has delighted residents and visitors alike for centuries. In this volume of the Thames & Hudson’s “most beautiful villages” series, rural communities in the Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhone, Var, Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence regions of southern France are highlighted. The book, originally published in 1994, presents about 300 small to medium-sized color photographs taken by British photographer Hugh Palmer with a brief introduction and accompanying text that provides some historical and cultural context to the illustrations. Although there is an attempt to capture the unique beauty of these Provençal locations, at the end of the day there is a sameness that marks the photographs and text – the architecture, fields and orchards of Venasque, for example, do not appear to be significantly different from those in Lurs. Unfortunately, the villages, while all lovely, are not particularly memorable.

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen