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A Year in the Merde (Paul West #1)

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  11,495 Ratings  ·  1,046 Reviews
Paul West arrives in Paris to start a new job - and finds out what the French are really like.

They do eat a lot of cheese, some of which smells like pigs' droppings. They don't wash their armpits with garlic soap. Going on strike really is the second national participation sport after petanque. And, yes, they do use suppositories.

In his first novel, Stephen Clarke gives a
Paperback, 383 pages
Published 2005 by Black Swan (first published 2004)
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Oct 21, 2016 Christine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: misogynists who also hate France
This started off so promisingly with snarky but charming British banter about France's little annoying idiosyncrasies that anyone who has spent any time in France can appreciate. The main character, a British twenty-something, chronicles his year living in France while working for a corrupt corporate sleaze bag who wants help marketing tea rooms in Paris. It turns out that the main character is also a sleaze bag AND a "whinge cow" as he so aptly dubs whiners. By the month of February I was so si ...more
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ (of badger and SNAKE)
You know what? I'm a French woman and apparently I lack a sense of humour.

See, I can admit that we French are far from perfect (that's an understatement, really), and everything isn't false in this. But silly me, I didn't expect this to be such a big fuckery. Because there's only so many misogynists's craps I can take, and if I read another sentence implying that French women are sluts (and teases, I almost forgot) and/or a description of cleavage I'm gonna lose it.

That's why even if I don't usu
Julia S
Aug 12, 2007 Julia S rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: francophobics
Never been to France? Never plan to go?
If you want a truly insulting, xenophobic experience of "French Culture" then read this book. Otherwise, you could run into the middle of the Champs Elysées and scream in your most loud, incomprehensible, slang English, "I THINK THIS COUNTRY SUCKS BUT I'D PREFER TO BE HERE INSULTING THE MOST STEREOTYPICAL CLICHES AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS RATHER THAN BACK AT HOME WHERE EVERYTHING IS ORDINARY AND BORING."
If you like it better at home, then go home.
Terri Garrett
Jan 03, 2014 Terri Garrett rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Someone in to snarky British men
This book inspired me to create a new bookshelf entitled: "not worth finishing". I RARELY start a book and don't finish it...and it was probably just my mind set of having several other books I preferred to read over this one...and the fact that this was a library book that I needed to return. Maybe if I were to give it another chance at some point I would feel differently.

Typically if I have a library book that is approaching the deadline, I will just sit down and bust through it. But, I just d
Apr 29, 2008 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is highly readable, the kind of thing that one could read from start to finish if one just had a few hours with nothing to do. However, this is the most positive thing I can say about this book. It's supposed be one of those screwball accounts of someone living in a foreign culture and the wacky mishaps he experiences, but mostly it's about a relatively uninteresting Englishman who tries much too hard at being funny, and who simply didn't bother to find out anything at all about how Fr ...more
Jun 15, 2008 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is one of the best friends I have met recently. One of those friends you need because only they really understand you.
It is really funny and an very accurate portrait of French goofiness. I don't know how funny it would be to most people, but being an expat living in Paris, it is tear inducing funny. Just when you think you are alone floating in the french sea, something like this comes along and makes you realize you aren't alone. I can't wait to read his other books.
Nov 09, 2008 Agnes rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
UPDATE: This book was one of the worse ones I've read recently. Not much humor and the attempts at it are pathetic. To be fair, I did quit halfway through, but the misogyny just got to be too much. I did get some good tips on ordering at a French cafe, however.

I picked up the French translation of this book at the airport in Paris two days ago (titled "God Save La France," for some reason). It's the story of a 20-something Brit, who doesn't speak much French, working in Paris for a year. I'm rea
Sandra Bašić
Zanimljiva digresija za početak – u jednoj čitateljskoj grupi na Facebooku pitanje: S obzirom na knjigu koju čitate, gdje se trenutno nalazite? Došlo mi da kao iz topa izvalim „u govnima“, ali, pristojna kakva jesam, odgovorih „U Parizu.“

Stephen Clarke nas u ovu knjigu uvodi (nazivajući to „ozbiljnom komedijom“) mnogim usporedbama tipa „Hermesova kravata je tako nabijena energijom da bi mogla pokretati cijeli pariški metro kad bi ga priključili na nju“ ili „Arondismani oblikuju puževu kućicu, a
May 06, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: francophones
Shelves: fiction, travel
I couldn't help myself; this book absolutely cracked me up. That may be because the author's descriptions of countless strikes by trash collectors, public transportation workers, police officers, and journalists brought back fond memories of my own stay in France--during which I also stepped in a fair amount of merde. The audiobook was particularly good, with the dramatist's illustraions of the countless miscommunications between francophones and anglophones. The story line is about Paul West, a ...more
Mar 10, 2016 Vasia rated it it was amazing
I read this book at the airport on my way home from france and i couldn't stop's very clever, and extremelly laugh out loud funny.
Jan 21, 2013 Merel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cathy
Shelves: novel, comical
A YEAR IN THE MERDE is the almost-true account of the author’s adventures as an expat in Paris. Based loosely on his own experiences and with names changed to “avoid embarrassment, possible legal action and to prevent the author’s legs being broken by someone in a Yves Saint Laurent suit (or quite possibly, a Christian Dior skirt), ” A YEAR IN THE MERDE is the story of a Paul West, a 27-year-old Brit who is brought to Paris by a French company to open a chain of British “tea rooms.” He soon beco ...more
Jun 05, 2014 Justyna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no-one
This was painful and horrible on so many levels that I don't even know where to start.
While in general I enjoy "culture-shock" books, particularly those involving France or other francophone countries, I just couldn't bring myself to finish this one. Reading it past the first few pages soon became almost physically painful and I finally gave up somewhere half-way through. But I tried, because so many people claimed it would be funny. Well, it wasn't. Maybe if the main character wasn't a stuck-up
The year begins in September as a young Brit begins work for a Parisian firm starting up a chain of English tea rooms. Paul West, a lightly disguised stand in for the author, grates at first: a typical boorish lout leching about on the continent. By the end of the year (in May of course) he's somewhat redeemed, still boorish but with a hard won start on understanding the ways of the small circle of Parisians he encounters. If you can
stand Paul then this is a light and cartoonish way to get up to
Jul 01, 2015 Len rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With the British sense of humour, Paul - the main character - tells his story during a year working (or "working") in France, through which a laughable, indifferent and "merdeuse" (for "life" is feminine) French life is depicted. Sarcasm is on every single page. It makes me laugh internally out loud.
I'll definitely have to buy the sequel "In The Merde For Love."
And yes, one of the best books I've read this year.
Mikey B.
Jul 15, 2013 Mikey B. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A whimsical book on a Brit living in Paris. There are three themes in this story. The satire of an Englishman adjusting to Parisian life with a country house thrown in, his amorous adventures with libidinous young women, and an intrigue of sordid business and political deals.

The first one – the satire worked well and kept me reading. There are equally amusing observations on French and British life. The other two areas – the amorous encounters and the intrigue were less successful and seemed the
Sep 16, 2009 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious but also really intelligently put together. If you're looking for an idealized, dream version of an expats year in France, this ain't it. But if you have even a slight knowledge of Parisian life and culture, this book is wonderful. Some reviewers said they found it too mean and insulting, but I dont think the author hates the French. In fact, in the end his character remains in Paris. this is really a book about learning to navigate a very complex, highly developed, very subtle and ver ...more
Well, after living three years in a French-speaking multicultural environment heavily influenced by the French style, i ve found this book extreme funny and absolutely worth of reading. it s very easy to digest book since the writer is not worried to show off some excellence in literature. it would be even funnier if you ve ever suffered from French in your life. i strongly recommend this book to those who are interested in French way of living.
Nov 13, 2015 Daphne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh goodness, this book was super hilarious. I hope the others in the series are just as funny. I travel a lot too, and it's always a blast putting yourself in new cultures.
Jun 05, 2016 Egita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Normāls, ķiķināms gabaliņš.
Bookworm Erica
Oct 17, 2016 Bookworm Erica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
really cute! I'm glad I took out book 2 from the library. it left off with Paul about to start a new adventure
Ron Arden
May 24, 2012 Ron Arden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a riot to read. Some of it is literally "laugh out loud" and other parts are more of the smirk and giggle. The hero or anti-hero of the story is Paul West (or Paul Vest as some of the French say). He is a 27 year old Brit who was hired by a French food company to create a string of English tea rooms.

It seems the French really do like all things British, including the English language, even though outwardly they complain about it all. Paul was hired by the CEO of the French company
Jul 21, 2014 Kristine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was browsing some titles in a bookshop and suddenly I found this book. How great, I thought, because as a student of the French language, I am more or less compelled to buy anything related to France. So I scanned it and bought it immediately. I should have known however that what I have before me is a bit of a crap, hence the title.

The main reason that I bought it is that I want to be familiarized with French culture. The Parisian culture to be exact. But, as the author is British and given t
Feb 05, 2013 Anna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this book about a month and a half into my trip to Paris which came as a breath of fresh air in between the guidebooks, intellectual culinary reviews, and all of the other literature that fell into the "rose-colored glasses" symptoms usually exhibited when describing Paris. Well okay... instead of saying it was a "breath of fresh air" it might be more along the lines of a "fresh burst of flatulence in a crowded elevator".
Let's get one thing straight about Clarke's writing abilities first
Oct 10, 2014 Rosy rated it did not like it
This review was written for 'The Review Diaries'. To read the full review please go to the site:

I’ve read a few other books by Stephen Clarke and really loved them; his writing is eloquent and frequently laugh out loud funny, and he tackles his subjects with both wit and an obvious deep love of the country and culture that he is writing about. It’s just a shame that he didn’t bring any of that to ‘A Year in the Merde.’
When I picked it up I didn’t realise
May 24, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is there a category for fictional nonfiction? I was well into the book, thinking it was a nonfiction memoir, and I kept thinking, "No way is he saying all these negative, though funny, things about his coworkers and the French in general, without risking being put on the guillotine." And then I realized it was fiction, although heavily influenced by his real experiences, presumably. And I chuckled. Surely there are some former friends who do not send him Christmas cards any longer (and to an ext ...more
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
This book is very irritating... I read it yesterday afternoon while on the ferry to Ibiza and although I did smile a few times, I really didn't appreciate Clarke's writing. I can't quite understand what bothered me about this book... Clarke does make an accurate description of some very French characteristics (Kafkaian bureaucracy, strikes, the addiction to medicine & doctors...)but at the same time, I found the book very superficial. I think Clarke would definitely be better as a stand-up c ...more
Mar 21, 2015 Jenny rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed some of the observations and the descriptions of the strikes. However, I did not enjoy the role of women in the book - all of them are viewed as sexual conquests only, and there is nothing worse than a woman with political opinions. There's one scene where he asks a woman in horror if she's political after she makes one sentence expressing an opinion on the running of her country. He treats women and relationships without respect, and is the kind of person I would avoid in real life. I ...more
May 20, 2016 Dina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The narrator was the most insufferable, entitled, and misogynistic jerk I've ever had the displeasure of reading about. I would've rated this one star but some of the depictions of various Parisian scenes and mannerisms were so detailed and made me even more desperate to visit that I couldn't help but bump it up.
Mar 23, 2016 Nina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2 stars for the eventual laugh and witty remark, and the book (I have no idea how) not being too boring despite it counting nearly 400 pages. -3 stars for the absolute abundance of sexist and misogynistic remarks, and the repetitiveness of the story. Was forced to read this for school and would not have finished it otherwise.
A funny take on a young Englishman's year in France. The main character tries to date various locals and works for a slimy boss. It's fairly astute and entertaining.
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Stephen Clarke is the bestselling author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction that satirize the peculiarities of French culture. In 2004, he self-published A Year in the Merde, a comic novel skewering contemporary French society. The novel was an instant success and has led to numerous follow-ups, including Dial M for Merde (2008), 1,000 Years of Annoying the French (2010), and Paris Revealed ...more
More about Stephen Clarke...

Other Books in the Series

Paul West (6 books)
  • Merde Actually
  • Merde Happens
  • Dial M For Merde
  • Merde in Europe
  • The Merde Factor (Paul West, #5)

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“If they wanted their shit stirred, then stirred their shit was jolly well going to be.” 50 likes
“I was also sick of my neighbors, as most Parisians are. I now knew every second of the morning routine of the family upstairs. At 7:00 am alarm goes off, boom, Madame gets out of bed, puts on her deep-sea divers’ boots, and stomps across my ceiling to megaphone the kids awake. The kids drop bags of cannonballs onto the floor, then, apparently dragging several sledgehammers each, stampede into the kitchen. They grab their chunks of baguette and go and sit in front of the TV, which is always showing a cartoon about people who do nothing but scream at each other and explode. Every minute, one of the kids cartwheels (while bouncing cannonballs) back into the kitchen for seconds, then returns (bringing with it a family of excitable kangaroos) to the TV. Meanwhile the toilet is flushed, on average, fifty times per drop of urine expelled. Finally, there is a ten-minute period of intensive yelling, and at 8:15 on the dot they all howl and crash their way out of the apartment to school.” (p.137)” 22 likes
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