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A Year in the Merde (Paul West #1)

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  10,099 ratings  ·  944 reviews
An urban antidote to A Year in Provence, Stephen Clarke’s book is a laugh-out-loud account of a year in the life of an expat in Paris— for Francophiles and Francophobes alike
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 actio
Audio CD, Abridged
Published May 9th 2005 by Macmillan Audio (first published 2004)
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Animal Farm by George OrwellCatch-22 by Joseph HellerCandide by VoltaireThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar WildeBrain by Dermot Davis
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Feb 25, 2008 Christine rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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 ✘
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
Jul 27, 2008 Brian rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: francophiles, francophobes and everything inbetween.
Shelves: own
I picked this up in the train station at Charles de Gaulle airport a few minutes before my flight was cancelled and I was forced to spend another day in Paris, almost a year ago. Tough life, right?

I never read it, though.

Don't know why, but last week I felt an urge to pick it up. Read it in about 26 hours, couldn't put it down.

If you have no knowledge of the French, France, or French it might not be terribly interesting. If, however, you've spent a significant portion of your life dealing with,
Julia S
Aug 12, 2007 Julia S rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
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
Terri Garrett
Jan 03, 2014 Terri Garrett rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
Nov 09, 2008 Agnes rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
May 06, 2008 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Jan 21, 2013 Merel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Shauna Tyndall
Dec 24, 2010 Shauna Tyndall added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody.
Shelves: 2010, avoid
This book could have been good, all the right ingredients were there. Unfortunately, the main character, Paul, comes across as being a racist, sexist, stupid sad case.

It basically makes a mockery of the French. Even their accents are slagged off by Paul. Somebody should have told the guy that in France, the French people have French accents. He's in their country, he's the one with the funny accent.

The actual storyline itself, is pretty bad. He moves to France, having got a job in a company that
Jun 05, 2014 Justyna rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
Len Nguyen
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.
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.
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
Ron Arden
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
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
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
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
This is not a Peter Mayle book. There were certainly fun moments and we see the author has been exposed the French culture with all its strange aspects but... it does not have the charm of "A Year in Provence" Where P.Mayle looks around with a circumspect but benign view of the French, Clarke simply is there to criticize or denigrate. Maybe it's that Engligh wit which is supposed to be ironic and sarcastic but it gets on the nerves at one point.
Then there is the sex, sex, whatever. We get it tha
✘✘ 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
Rereading for book club. Every bit as funny as I recall, altho I seem to have forgotten just how vulgar Clarke can be in his subject matter. No worries, it does not detract from the story; it is, in fact, part of the plot. Wanna-be-womanizing Brit comes to Paris for a job that's not all it's supposed to be...I am now on to book two in the Paul West series (there are 4 that I see) and will also be reading more of Clarke's brilliant skewering of French culture and Parisians in general. Makes me la ...more
You gotta consider the book for what it actually is: a scathing, fierce and really funny satire. Clearly, if you focus a bit more on the plot, you'll see it doesn't hold much water (a young British guy lands in Paris (where he doesn't know anyone), he hardly speaks any French, and 6 months later, he has foiled his dishonest boss's plans, has slept (or dated) with many different girls (who, surprisingly, all speak English), has tried to buy a house in the heartland of the French countryside (cf b ...more
Après The Secret Life Of France (que j'avais lu en anglais), je m'attaque aux aventures de Paul West (en traduction française).

Paul a 27 ans et débarque à Paris pour travailler dans le quartier des Champs-Elysées. Nous somme à la veille de la guerre d'Irak (mars 2003).

Le récit est très plaisant lire, il arrive plein de choses. Les traits sont forcés (les grèves, les files d'attentes, les congés, ...), mais c'est vrai ;)
Il est quand même relativement bien tombé, bien payé, loge dans le marais, e
Alannah Foley
This book has it all... Sex, drugs, an exotic location & humour.

As the story follows its main character, Paul West, through his 'year' in Paris, he has to learn to navigate a new job, new language, new culture, along with the inevitable (and regular) strikes and the French approach to love & sex.

The only 'hitch' I'd mention about this book is that, before I read it, I did find the blurb a little confusing - ie the book is supposed to be about Stephen Clarke but the character in the book
I found this book hilarious, charming, and a breath of fresh air. I picked it up because I'm a huge Francophile. For some this book will be complete merde (to borrow from the over usage in the novel) and others it will be a funny look at living in another country. I have been to France but i did not see it the way the narrator did. It was as if I look at Paris through rose-colored glasses and romanticized it.

The narrator is an arrogant, sex-crazed Brit who is there to do a job and only that. Th
Stephen Clarke has been described (it might even be on the book jacket?) as the anti-Mayle. I read A Year in Provence more than a decade ago, and I have fond memories of it (in particular Mayle’s literally hair raising descriptions of the madness inducing mistral). Having finished reading A Year in the Merde, I have to assume that maybe Clarke is the anti-Mayle because he’s caustic and not afraid to take a piss at the French? It’s unclear. The most anti-Maylean thing about him seems to be his ch ...more
I had heard of this book a long time ago and thought it was an actual memoir even as I was reading it. A few chapters in, I realized that the main character's name was not the same as the author's. So clearly I wasn't reading this very closely.

I enjoy stories of people living in other countries and this one did offer some humorous examples of culture shock/misunderstandings.

I'm assuming (hoping) some of this was exaggerated. It was often funny but also more crude in parts than I'd prefer. The
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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 (5 books)
  • Merde Actually
  • Merde Happens
  • Dial M For Merde
  • The Merde Factor (Paul West, #5)
Merde Actually Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French 1000 Years of Annoying the French Merde Happens Dial M For Merde

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“If they wanted their shit stirred, then stirred their shit was jolly well going to be.” 51 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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