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A Year in the Merde Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook, CD

Book 1 of 4 in the Merde Series

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio; Abridged edition (April 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593977557
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593977559
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,951,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Take a self-assured Brit with an eye for the ladies, drop him in the middle of Paris with a tenuous grasp of the language and you have Clarke's alter ego, Paul West, who combines the gaffes of Bridget Jones with the boldness of James Bond. Hired to oversee the creation of a French chain of British tearooms, Clarke, aka West, spends nine months—the equivalent of a French business year—stumbling his way through office politics à la française. Clarke's sharp eye for detail and relentless wit make even the most quotidian task seem surreal, from ordering a cup of coffee to picking up a loaf of bread at the boulangerie. Luck is by West's side as he moves into a stunning apartment (with his boss's attractive daughter), but he has to be careful where he steps, as he finds he "began to branch out from literal to metaphorical encounters of the turd kind." Between conspiring colleagues, numerous sexual escapades (he deems French porn "unsexy" since "Being French, they had to talk endlessly before they got down to action") and simply trying to order a normal-sized glass of beer, West quickly learns essential tricks to help him keep his head above the Seine. Originally self-published in Paris, Clarke's first book in a soon-to-be-series is funny and well-written enough to appeal to an audience beyond just Francophiles. Agent, Susanna Lea at Susanna Lea Associates. (May) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Brit Paul West escapes his homeland to take a job in Paris marketing English tearooms to the French. Over a year's cycle he discovers that the French way of doing business thrives on maneuvering nimbly through a minefield of unique, demanding personalities. An inveterate womanizer, he finds plenty of skirts to chase and conquer. After a comic search for an apartment, he settles in the city's trendy Marais district. Urban stress in general, combined with a need to escape the upstairs family whose every move reverberates to distraction, forces West to escape to a Norman getaway featuring all the bucolic charms and a cast of neighbors and townspeople to rival Peter Mayle's Provencal rustics. West disdains French food for its love of organ meats and its fascination with revoltingly smelly cheeses. Francophobes will find much here to reinforce their prejudices; more balanced observers will find Clarke's caricatures of the French simply very funny reading.

Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 82 people found the following review helpful By G. Eymard on May 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm French and I read this book because an American friend lent it to me. I spent a lot of time in the US where I studied and worked and it took me a lot of time to understand why I felt so lost in this country just like most Americans feel upon moving to France. I just felt Americans were so welcoming but at the same time seemed so rude to me. Obviously I was the one who should try to understand and adapt and after a while and some introspection things went very well.

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...
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83 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Sigrun on April 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As someone who lived for a year in France as an exchange student this book brought back memories of how it was to discover France and french culture.

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.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By rommyc on October 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
or read a few pages before buying a book? Folks, be forewarned (which you should have been already) - this book is NOT from the Under The Tuscan Sun/Year in Provence school, although it does have to do with France. It's for folks who like Monty Python and Fawlty Towers. It's young, broad, British, bawdy, lovingly mean-spirited, frequently hilarious. The main character is obsessed with drinking and sex - almost like a male ex-pat Le Sex in Le City. If you are of a certain age, PLEASE do everyone a favor and sample this book beforehand. Many of you will recoil in horror, which is obviously the intention. If you "get it," you'll love this skewering of the French, and indirectly the British as well.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By wabibito on March 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
Being an unapologetic Francophile, I love reading books about France. A Year in the Merde, by Stephen Clarke, is a book with a prominent cover that, being an international bestseller, always seemed to be facing me whilst browsing books at the bookstore.

A lengthy review does not merit my time, as this was one of the worst books I have read in quite a while. I was anticipating a funny, insightful account of a 27-year old British male's year in France. Instead, I endured a narrative which was basically poorly-written male chick-lit. Paul West comes to Paris ostensibly for a new job, but really, he just wants to get laid as much as possible. The details of his exploits are so corny (and not funny) that I couldn't help but cringe throughout the book. Yes, there are some accurate descriptions of France and its people in the book (the strikes, the laissez-faire attitude of public servants, attitudes towards sex), but one would be better served by reading many of the good books out there on the land of liberté, égalité et fraternité.

Here are a few that I enjoyed (a while back, so no review here):

- Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French by Stephen Clarke. I'm going to throw Mr. Clarke a bone here. Although published around the same time as A Year in the Merde, perhaps he was using his now older and wiser voice in this book as it was actually really funny and witty. Found myself nodding my head in agreement to many of his points.

- Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb. I love Robb's books for his wonderful narrative that is full of (dry) humour.
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