Book Concierge's Reviews > A Year in the Merde

A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke
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May 25, 12

Read in May, 2012

Audio book read by John Lee

This is a “true story” of one Brit’s experiences working for a French company in Paris in 2002-2003. Paul West is hired to open a chain of “typical” English tearooms in Paris. We quickly learn that he barely understands, let alone speaks French, he’s saddled with a team that isn’t at all enthusiastic about working on the project, and he can’t even seem to order a normal size cup of coffee. Still he manages to luck into a pretty good living situation – rooming with his boss’s daughter in subsidized student housing. As he traverses the streets of Paris and cultural nuances of the French, he soon finds himself stepping in the “merde” … both literally and figuratively.

I was hoping for a Peter Mayle style, but was disappointed. Clarke certainly tackles the French political climate, the people’s attitudes towards work, food and/or sex, the unions, and the love/hate relationship with all things English. There are some humorous scenes, but nothing laugh-out-loud funny. John Lee does a great job with the various characters and their differing accents. Three stars is a little generous, but (*shrugs with arms extended, palm up*) it did remind me of what I love (and hate) about France.
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