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A Year in the Merde

(Paul West #1)

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  14,457 ratings  ·  1,268 reviews
Based on Stephen Clarke's 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, A Year in the Merde provides perfect entertainment for Francophiles and Francophobes alike. ...more
Paperback, 276 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 2004)
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Average rating 3.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,457 ratings  ·  1,268 reviews

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Feb 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Diane in Australia
Apr 05, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
In the front of this book it says, "A Year in the Merde is an almost-true account of things that may or may not have happened to him [Stephen] in the ten years he has lived in France, depending on who is asking the question." So, it's not truly nonfiction, and is classified as fiction. Stephen has written a few books about the main character, Paul West, and his 'almost-true' adventures.

I wasn't impressed. I tend to agree with the other reviewers comments:
*Anna wrote: It did not surprise me when
Aug 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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,
Terri Garrett
May 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Julia S
Aug 12, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  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.
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 16, 2008 rated it did not like it
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 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: cathy
Shelves: comical, novel
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
Apr 29, 2008 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 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
May 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Sep 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Ron Arden
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mikey B.
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-audio, quest
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. ...more
Jun 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
Okay, I rarely rate books I couldn't finish, but once I was a little over half way through this one, I knew I couldn't finish. The main character is such a misogynic prick. He moves to Paris from London for work, and immediately it just seems like all he cares about is getting into someone's pants. The only parts of this book that I enjoyed were when it would describe walking around Paris. That's it - and that's bc Paris is gorgeous. ...more
Jan 09, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Hannah Mary McKinnon
Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Made me laugh!
Scarlett Sims
So, I initially started reading this for the "travel memoir" task in the Read Harder challenge and then about halfway through I realized it wasn't a memoir. There were two things that tipped me off:
1. The name of the main character wasn't the name of the author
2. The intrigue started to get a bit too intense and stretched the limits of credulity.

As a person who has spent time as an expat in a country where I don't know the language, I could relate to a lot of Paul's troubles and complaints. Yeah
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
I read this book about a month and a half into my trip to Paris. It was a welcome respite from the guidebooks, intellectual culinary reviews, and other literature, all exhibiting "rose-colored glasses" language used to describe Paris ad nauseam. 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."
First of all, let's get one thing straight about Clarke's writing abilities. It did not surprise me whe
Fanni Sütő
Feb 25, 2020 rated it did not like it
The protagonist is an insufferable asshole and the French are paperthin sterotypes... streets are covered in dog poip, women invariably want to bed the protagonist even though most of them had boyfriends but they were not at all bothered by this because they were so libertine they watched porn/grew weed on their walk in cabinet, etc. (=the stereotype of French women) (What did they find attractive in this narcistic idiot I do not know... I wouldnt evwn sleep w him if he looked like T. Hiddleston ...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 abvery 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.
Mar 23, 2016 rated it did not like it
1 star for the odd witty remark and the book (I have no idea how) not being too boring despite it counting nearly 400 pages. -4 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. Trust and believe.
Sam Sattler
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, memoir, travel
I think every traveler to France (no matter how competent they THINK they are in the language) experiences at least some of the things that Clarke recounts in this travel memoir. And depending on how traumatizing the experience ultimately was, we let our friends and family hear all about it when we get home. But few of us tell it all via the dry wit that Clarke consistently exhibits in A Year in the Merde. I actually lost count of how many times I laughed out loud.

This one is great fun for those
Jan 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: disappointed
A young Brit gets a marketing job in Paris. A dream come true: good pay, good food, beautiful women in a beautiful city. There's one thing wrong with this scenario. The young man holds antiquated beliefs about the French. Old stereotypes are alive and well in this young man's mind.The French are sex-crazed, fussy eaters, and snobs. With this as the premise, this book is supposed to be laugh-out-loud funny as "our hero" manoeuvres his way through life in the "City of Light". It's not. It has ever ...more
Anshuman Domah
Nov 08, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"A Year in the Merde" is an apt title for this piece of merde book.

The narrator thinks that he's a James Bond kind of character, although he does nothing even remotely impressive throughout the story. His self-entitlement comes solely from the fact that he is British.

Case in point, the start of the Chapter "Liberté, égalité, get out of my way" goes: "On April the first, you understand why the French people admire the British sense of humour: we have one." ...

0.5 Stars. Would not recommend.
Beth Malatestinic
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiography
A hilarious and coincidentally relatable autobiography that I would recommend to absolutely any and every one who likes a laugh and knows what it's like to be faced with an unfamiliar culture. Stephen Clarke is brutally honest when it comes to delivering his opinion to some of the particular tendencies of the french. As a Brit, he manages to tell his experience in a way that doesn't put english culture above the french, only gives us an outsider's perspective. It was so entertaining to watch his ...more
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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

Other books in the series

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

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