Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany” as Want to Read:
I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,095 ratings  ·  256 reviews
Tired of Provence in books, cuisine, and tablecloths? Exhausted from your armchair travels to Paris? Despairing of ever finding a place that speaks to you beyond reason? You are ripe for a journey to Brittany, where author Mark Greenside reluctantly travels, eats of the crêpes, and finds a second life.

When Mark Greenside—a native New Yorker living in California, doubting
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published November 4th 2008 by Atria Books
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do), please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,095 ratings  ·  256 reviews

Sort order
Read this book at your peril if you are learning to speak French, as the French spoken here is ATROCIOUS. If, however, you have some knowledge of French this can be a hoot.

It is one of a zillion stories of Americans, Brits and others buying property in France, and their trials, tribulations and triumphs. In this instance an American teacher buys a property in a Breton village after a holiday with a girlfriend. The house is aptly named "Kostez Gwer", which just so happens to mean 'green side'. Th
Jan 07, 2009 rated it liked it
I can't resist reading about people who find themselves falling in love with another country and then bravely finding a way to live there (and here.) This book was entertaining, laugh out loud funny, and sweet. I enjoyed reading about Breton culture and watching Mark bumble his way through buying a house, redoing his floors, opening a bank account, trying to understand the French insurance system (which so totally beats ours), and attempting to learn the language. He is blessed with lovely neigh ...more
Aug 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must confess that I do not read a lot of travel books, but I was impressed with I’ll Never be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany. Despite the lengthy title, the book is actually a rather brief literary romance between a man and his coastal French town. Against Greenside’s best efforts, he and a girlfriend plan a vacation to France. The relationship doesn’t last, but Greenside’s growing affection for Brittany and the populace does. In the rashest move of his for ...more
Glory Gray
Aug 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of travel books
Recommended to Glory by: Librarian
I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do) Living in a Small Village in Brittany by Mark Greenside
I'm a big fan of Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes, so I will read just about any book with a similar theme. Mark Greenside writes from the point of view of a hapless, poor, single American male who is a bit in awe of small town France.

The scenes of miscommunication are particularly entertaining. In the end, we cheer for Mark and wonder if he'll successfully navigate this new world and its alien culture.

I enjoyed the descriptions of Brittany. He provided just enough to make me want to visit without
Jun 03, 2012 rated it liked it
When you work in publishing, as I do, you have access to all kinds of books. A bunch end up on first-come, first-served shelves. Maybe they were sent for review to the wrong address. Maybe they two copies came for publicity purposes when only one would suffice. Some just arrive looking for a home.

I grabbed Mark Greenside’s book “I’ll Never be French (no matter what I do)” from a pile of very uninteresting books because it stood out. The bright red cover and witty title led me to discover a genre
Feb 26, 2011 rated it it was ok

Mildly entertaining and a fast read. The author spends a bit too much time wondering (and deciding for himself) what other people think of him. There were some bits which were quite funny, and you may learn a thing or two about the French, Bretons, and the differences between the two. A nice look at a part of France not often publicized in literature, but a beautiful part of France with its own unique customs. Wish I could live in Finistere too! Overall, a decent memoir about owning a home in a
Mar 05, 2009 rated it it was ok

Started out as a potentially enchanting book but just tripped over itself. I last studied French in high school so a lot of the French dialogue can only be appreciated by someone who knows French. And then there were parts in the story that just seemed missing.

I could understand why the author would want to skip over the ending of a relationship. How someone just finds himself buying a house in France confused me too. It just felt like a chapter was missing there.

Oct 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: france
A charming starting-over book, this time from the (rare) single male persective. I enjoyed his perspective on the rural French lifestyle and the simple trust that villagers put in each other, something missing in Greenside's California upbringing.

Laugh out loud in a few places, slight smile throughout, a very pleasant read.
Apr 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
Haw haw, the French are so different from us and I'm a bewildered American who can't get anything right and blah blah blah blah. UGH.
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
Mark Greenside was living with his girlfriend in New York when out of the blue she said to him: "Honey, let's go to France". He had been in France years earlier and it had not been a good experience, and he didn't speak French, so he wasn't thrilled with the idea. But she had answers for all his arguments and eventually she wore him down. They went to France - Brittany - for the summer. This is the story of how he fell in love with the country, bought a house and became a permanent part-time res ...more
Jan 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Julie by: Julia
Mark Greenside grudgingly agrees to spend a summer in a small town in Brittany with his girlfriend. He figures that Kathryn speaks French, and it will be a nice place for them both to write for a while. Their relationship falls apart, but by then he has made firm friendships despite his utter lack of linguistic ability, and he finds himself under the spell of the French way of doing things. Unfortunately, although he appreciates the French way, he finds himself making one inadvertent faux pas af ...more
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
I discovered this book when it popped up as a recommendation for me since I've read some books by Peter Mayle. This is one for those who enjoy reading about people who actually act upon their dream and live in other countries. The author never knew this was his dream until he actually visited one summer with a girlfriend and the idea to visit had been hers. He falls out of love with her and in love with France.

Mark Greenside writing is laugh out loud funny, no doubt about that. His writing style
Megan Martin
Sep 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Loved this book. It was fun, light, and made me want to live in France, or at least experience it. Finished this one a day after reading Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong, so it was fun to have the two parallel books, one very educational, the other anecdotal. Both enjoyable and interesting. For me in my nerdiness it is fun to read multiple books on the same topic. Wow. I should make some friends or something.

Definitely would suggest to anyone who wants to imagine living somewhere whimsica
Mary Lou
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
The author is quite cynical and passive-aggressive towards others (mainly conservatives or the religious) who don't believe exactly as he does. It's subtle, but there are snide remarks throughout the book. He will have you believe at the end of each chapter though that thanks to the grace and kindness of others, he has become a better man. To think he's a college professor... I sure wouldn't want him shaping my youth's mind....the story itself is okay. It's Mark I couldn't stomach.
Oct 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Yet another place on earth to visit on my "bucket list"! :) I'm going to need to hit the lottery!

Mark Greenside writes a hysterical memoir of living and loving Brittany. As a bumbling, fumbling middle-aged American man who is discovering a new world so unlike the one he has known.

Dec 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed this book. Living in the US and then living in France, back and forth, made for some very funny and charming experiences. He was actually living in Brittany, which the French call Finistere (end of the earth) and the Bretons call Penn ar Bed (beginning of the world). I loved the storyline as much as I loved being able to read all the French parts! Very fun read.
Oct 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this for my sister after I read it. I kept calling her up and reading her parts of it. So many enjoyable anecdotes. Really liked it.
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: france
Another read in one of my favourite genres: that of the foreigner who moves to France, and all that they encounter in their efforts to acclimatize.
This time it's Brittany - an area I've never thought of, but certainly do now. The kindness of the author's neighbours and the group of new friends he amasses in a seemingly short period of time are enough to make northern France seem idyllic, warm, hospitable and just an overall great place for a displaced North American to end up.
And, as a bonus to
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, nature-travel
Another in the Expatriated American With a New House in Europe genre, complete with the obligatory run-ins with the local repair persons, cops, and village-haunters. I didn't like it at first for its rather apologetic tone, but by the end of the book the author seemed to have grown a bit for the better for it all & seemed a little more confident about life. I might begin a separate shelf soon for this category of book- lord knows I've encountered five or six already in the past five years.
Jack Rochester
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald's wry comment about the rich being different from the rest of us, the experiences and adventures of humans in middle age differ from those of our youthful days. For one thing, we know ourselves better and are more resilient to change, perhaps more forgiving. For another, we don't take it all so seriously. That wisdom is the great gift Mark Greenside shares with us in this delightful book. Whether or not we've had the same experiences as he, we can follow along w ...more
Mar 09, 2018 rated it liked it
A light-hearted, fun book, especially as a change of pace after Ron Chernow's Grant.

If you have ever seen a Woody Allen movie--full of self deprecation, self doubt, and people watching--try to imagine what his screenplay would be if he splashed down, left to flounder in the cultural waters of Brittany.

This book is it, one domestic and intercultural episode after another.


Aug 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: documentaire
C'est l'histoire d'un américain qui vient passer des vacances en Bretagne. Il décrit les us et coutumes français à travers son regard d'américain. Autant vous dire que c'est très drôle.
Il met l'accent sur les différences entre nos deux pays, dans un grand respect, ce qui rend la lecture agréable. Et notre orgueil de français est remonté à bloc parce qu'au final, il tombe amoureux de la Bretagne et y achète une maison.

Il s'agit donc d'un livre très intéressant et drôle avec lequel j'ai passé un a
Jenny Gendel
Apr 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-narrative
Mark Greenside is HILARIOUS. This book reminds me of I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away byBill Bryson. It craked me up so hard, I had tears in my eyes. I started this book at about 8pm or so on Friday night and read straight through in to Saturday morning. Can't say enough about a book that got me to stay up until 1:29 am just to see what FUNNY thing happens next, but this one did, and I'm grateful. He and others like him (including the aformentioned Bi ...more
Aug 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
After returning home from a trip to Paris, I was itching to get a taste of France and it seemed a good time to pull this down from the "to read" stack. Despite considerable protest, Greenside travels with his girlfriend to Brittany and though the romance fades, he falls hard for the town of Finistère. Completely different than his native California, Greenside never really tries to blend, but appreciates his experiences and encounters for the enrichment they bring to his life. For fans of Peter M ...more
Oct 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
I loved this short memoir of the author's adventures in France where he is initially dragged by a girlfriend. The romance ends before the visit is over but he falls in love with the community and people he meets in the small village in Brittany where they spend the summer and ends up buying a house there. He speaks almost no French and the culture and life is quite the opposite of his life as a liberal college professor in California. He shares his foibles and accomplishments with self-deprecati ...more
Greg Rothenberger
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
I've tried hard to think of a reason not to like this book. I've failed miserably. This story of an American who goes to the northwest of France with his girlfriend is just an ideal introduction to life as an expatriate in rural France. I was particularly interested in the differences between how the French see Americans and how they see the British. The book was well-written, with lots of anecdotes, and the characterizations were believable and enjoyable. Brittany itself makes for a nice change ...more
Greg Rothenberger
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
I've tried hard to think of a reason not to like this book. I've failed miserably. This story of an American who goes to the northwest of France with his girlfriend is just an ideal introduction to life as an expatriate in rural France. I was particularly interested in the differences between how the French see Americans and how they see the British. The book was well-written, with lots of anecdotes, and the characterizations were believable and enjoyable. Brittany itself makes for a nice change ...more
Carol Best
Nov 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
I love the Travel /Adventure genre and this week I picked up two books at the local library featuring living in France. The first book. Written by a western Canadian, A Paris Moment, was obviously about the country's capital city but this book is about a tiny village in Brittany. Again, this book was laced with humour which certainly added to the tale but Mark Greenside's revelations of falling in love with this part of France as a non French speaking American touched my heart. The authors of bo ...more
Tamara Elias
Love the subject matter. Love his neighbors. I would like to think I'd roll with the punches and accept the inherent differences as easily as he does.

The author's style of writing--with a bit of wit and whimsy--appealed to me.

The only (slight) negative is that I felt there wasn't really a concise story line or ending. The book was over rather abruptly. It was more a collection of experiences. Perhaps I just didn't want it to end.

An easy, enjoyable read that I would recommend, especially if you,
Jan 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Okay, eight years of French all those years ago steer me to books like this...I cannot help myself, plus it got a good review in the Free Press. Not as good as the Peter Mayle books. But maybe 3 and 1/2 stars. My interest waned about halfway through but I finished it nonetheless. From a man's point of view, but it was interesting. Puzzling why the guy never took a class to learn the language, instead of constantly reminding us that he couldn't speak it....and he is a professor of sorts, highly e ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • From Here, You Can't See Paris: Seasons of a French Village and Its Restaurant
  • C'est la Vie: An American Woman Begins a New Life in Paris and--Voila!--Becomes Almost French
  • Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France
  • The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France
  • My French Life
  • On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town
  • Mediterranean Summer: A Season on France's Côte d'Azur and Italy's Costa Bella
  • A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France
  • The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian
  • French By Heart: An American Family's Adventures in La Belle France
  • Extra Virgin (Italy series, #1)
  • Pardon My French: Unleash Your Inner Gaul
  • Living in a Foreign Language: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Love in Italy
  • An Italian Education
  • French or Foe?: Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living and Working in France
  • Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light
  • All You Need to Be Impossibly French: A Witty Investigation into the Lives, Lusts, and Little Secrets of French Women
  • Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong
Mark Greenside holds B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Wisconsin. He has been a civil rights activist, Vietnam War protestor, anti-draft counselor, Vista Volunteer, union leader, and college professor. His stories have appeared in The Sun, The Literary Review, Cimarron Review, The Nebraska Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, The New Laurel Review, Crosscurrents, Five Fingers Review, and The ...more