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I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; First Edition edition (November 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416586873
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416586876
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1991, Greenside, a teacher and political activist living in Alameda, Calif., found himself at both the end of a relationship and the end of the world. The French world, that is: Finistère, a remote town on the coast of Brittany, where he and his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend spend 10 weeks. Preternaturally slow to negotiate the ways of life in a small Breton village, he gets help from Madame P., his slow-to-melt landlady and neighbor. At summer's end (as well as the end of his relationship), his attachment to France became more permanent through the quasi-impulsive purchase of an old stone house, which was made possible with the help of Madame P. She figures prominently and entertainingly through the rest of the book, facilitating several of the author's transactions with the sellers and the local servicemen who provide necessities such as heating oil and insurance. At times the author's self-deprecation comes across as disingenuous, but his self-characterization as a helpless, 40-something leftist creates an intriguing subtext about baby boomerism, generational maturity and the relationship of America to France. Greenside tells a charming story about growing wiser, humbler and more human through home owning in a foreign land. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Writer and academic Greenside reluctantly goes to Brittany with his ladylove in 1991. Few words are spent describing the demise of that relationship, rather the love affair described is the one he has with Brittany itself. This part of France isn’t like anything he has experienced before. The generosity and fairness of the locals and the beauty and history of the place woo him until he finds himself borrowing money from his mother to buy a house. The sellers are honorable and upright as are all the repair and craftspeople it takes to maintain his new possession. But as the title of the book tells the reader up-front, this man does not exactly blend in. His language skills improve somewhat over the years, but his behavior never quite matches. No matter, he is always treated patiently and politely. There are few new insights here, but for those who love the move-to-a-foreign-country-and-survive genre, this is a fine addition to their collections --Danise Hoover

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Customer Reviews

This book was so enjoyable to read that I did not want to finish it ..
Cassie
We have had many of the very same things happen to us as Greenside so not only is the book is absolutely true to life, but it is funny and heartwarming as well.
C. Coe
After reading this book I am certain that Brittany, France will be added to my summer vacation itinerary.
Jonathan Salmon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Book Lover on November 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Foolishly, I thought I would read a chapter to see what this book was like, only to find myself sliding through the first half dozen chapters unable to stop, laughing aloud, as if caught in a Chaplinesque journey of an Everyman in France, a Twain's Innocent Abroad in Brittany.
To read this book is to become for a few delightful hours one's own Jacques Tati as one bumbles through a personal "Mr Hulot's Holiday" trying to fit in in France. To give this book is to give the gift of an interlude of a few hour's delight marked by laughter.
The writing itself is seamless and transparent; the reading, a pleasure trip; the main flaw, an ending that arrives too soon.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Fiona Lowther on November 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is the funniest book in recent memory. I burst out laughing while reading in a restaurant, and after I got home, I continued reading, and laughed till my sides ached (the chapter about the insurance agent). But people shouldn't go immediately to that chapter; it is necessary (as they say in France) that one reads the earlier chapters first to set the scene and build up to it to get the full effect. I was sorry when the book ended, but it's such a gem that probably going on further would've detracted from the overall effect.
The one point the author overlooked is in considering the people of the village French - don't ever forget that Brittany is CELTIC. I'm kind of curious as to how the author would make out in Paris. . .
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By David K. Chivers on August 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Taking a Bill Bryson approach, Greenside describes his culture shock at buying a house and living in a small town in France. While his lack of speaking French and unfamiliarity with French culture provide some of his disjointedness, much of it seems to come from two more common sources that having nothing to do with France 1) small town life and 2) home ownership. Most of the cultural problems he encounters are due mainly to his lack of speaking the language rather than from true cultural diffrences. The few cultural diffrences he does highlight are the best parts of the book. I wish he had explored these true diffrences more. One further annoyance, in the last few chapters he uses a lot of French dialogue without translation, leaving the reader baffled as to what the point of those converations was. An OK read, but not as culturally enlightening as I thought it might be.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By kb on October 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A laugh out loud read about the trials and tribulations of a very American man finding his way in a small French village. If you've ever spent time in any small French village, you will recognize the characters and remember, as Greenside does, with fondness, the people, the place, the whole experience of being an American abroad.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Palasek on December 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Trying to set any bias aside (my friend here in NY is the author's niece) I was happily suprised by the humorous writings of her uncle who I swear I have never met (although I was once called on my friend's cell thinking she was calling her uncle of the same name, but I digress) but would like to one day. The book is a fun tale of a true life visit to France becoming a lifelong adventure. The descriptions of incidents are at times hilarious and I only can imagine there were many other events that could have, and should have, been included. It also gave me a new look on the "true" French and the kindness of their ways (except if you're British). As I was told this was a "good read" it truly turned out to be just that. Wonderful and a must read for anyone considering moving to the quieter regions of France. (Similar in style to "Desiring Paradise" by Schlesinger on the trials and joy of moving to St. John, VI). My only tiny problem, as the author's experience progresses so does his occasional use of French quotes increase without translation which lost me for one or two lines here and there.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Fleming on December 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Mark Greenside has written a delightful and insightful description of his experiences living in a small French village. Greenside's portrayals of his French neighbors belie the usual stereotypes and will make even those who dislike the French also want to go live in Brittany. Greenside's ability to make the reader laugh out loud (but always at himself, never at the expense of others) coupled with his open heart provides a very good reason to gift this little gem to any friend for any reason.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Coe on September 27, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Finally a book that really explains how it is to live in France and with the French. Greenside is very witty and so perceptive at times that I laughed out loud and had to then read those parts to my husband. We are Americans who divide our time between life in a tiny village in lower Normandy (quite close to Brittany if you don't know the area) and also equally in a central Paris apartment. Because we live in extremely different cultural situations here between sophisticated big city and country village it makes us even more aware of the way people react. We are always astonished at the critical things said about the French because we cannot find a single instance of anything but helpfulness and politeness with all we come into contact with, and we have lived here for 10 years. We have had many of the very same things happen to us as Greenside so not only is the book is absolutely true to life, but it is funny and heartwarming as well. Great combination and I hated to see the book end. Has anyone written a book like this about Paris and Parisians yet? Please do.
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