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A Year in the Merde Paperback – May 2, 2006
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I was first intrigued by this story but I enjoyed reading it. However, you should know this book isn't to be taken too seriously. It made me laugh because I could recognize typical French reactions to what we see as rude and arrogant British behavior. But everyone wouldn't act like that although at times I would have done the same because the character deserved it for being such an ass. He unconsciously realizes he is not going anywhere acting like that and gradually adapts to the French way of life. For sure, French are never going to change because foreigner don't understand them, which is quite normal after all, even if they should sometimes. In fact what is striking about the relationship between French and Brits or Americans is how much everything looks the same on the surface but is different underneath, in the details. Obviously one has to concede the character isn't trying his best to adapt to the codes and, unfortunately, gets what you would expect a (stereotypical) Frenchman would do to a foreigner acting that way: a revenge for not trying to act French in the form of rudeness and aggressivity. So if that book seems to illustrate your feeling about your last trip to France try to read a few tips on how to get the best of French people. Here are mine: be polite, not intrusive, and say it when something is wrong...Read more ›
Paul West, a young englishman, comes to Paris to work there for a year, establishing english tea-houses for a french business. During this year he explores french culture and describes his experience one month at a time.
And what a read. The author is extremely witty without taking it too far and manages to point out some striking differences between english culture and the french one without sounding condescending.
The french people loath America and american culture and England and all things english are only a notch less despised. In spite of that they have embraced some things american and/or english such as McDonalds with a fierce passion that would put the average American to shame. Taking the family for a Macdo on a Saturday is a ritual for many and the Happy Meal is loved like it belongs to french cuisine.
Of course, this book doesn't give you a complete understanding of french society but it does provide a pretty good insight. It mentions the importance of the shrug, for example. The shrug is heavily used in France, in fact I don't think anyone has mastered conveying such strong emotion (total indifference) like they have. The book also tells us, for instance, about the importance of using the right language when ordering something at a french restaurant/bistro (of course, speaking in english is strictly forbidden) to get exactly what you want, how you must throw away notions of being liked and embrace being rude in a polite way, how wishing somenoe Bonne journee (Good day) can drive people mad and how you never ever cut the lettuce on your plate.Read more ›
It does a great job making fun of innumerable French foibles (a good deal of which consist of thinking that Civilization, decency, and common sense end at the French borders). Paul West, the main character _is_ a bit sophomoric and somewhat obsessed with girls (not all Parisiennes are nymphos but I will forgive him that overgeneralization). And, yes, the story isn't, quite, War and Peace, but it is good enough for its purpose, which is to carry the jokes and criticisms. Besides their funny side, some of the criticisms concern things that are really serious problems in France (strikes, racism, public sector entitlements, lack of new politicians), even if they are presented lightly.
That said, I think the humor will best be appreciated by someone who has lived in France for a while. Just having been there on a short vacation does not count. If you can't relate to day to day life in France, the book loses much of its appeal, is just critical, and you are left with a rather lightweight story.
Also skip if:
- you happen to be French and deprived of a sense of humor
- you are looking for any kind of serious analysis.
- you are an Ann Coulter fan. Much too subtle for you and Paul actually likes some aspect of France.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Stephen Clarke is covering a lot of the same ground as Peter Mayle and Polly Pratt with more sex and less nuance. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
I refused to finish this awful book. The Author seems to hate France with a passion. Probably, a French girlfriend or wife must have dumped him, such is his scorn toward French... Read morePublished 6 months ago by B. Ritthaler
A relaxing read with some quite observant insights from a foreigner working in Paris.Published 8 months ago by Wong Chun Lan