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A Year in the Merde (Paul West #1)

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  12,295 Ratings  ·  1,110 Reviews
A Year in the Merde is the almost-true account of the author's adventures as an expat in Paris. Based 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," the book is narrated by Paul West, a twenty-seven-year-old Brit who is brought to Paris by a ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 2004)
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Feb 22, 2008 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 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.
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  ·  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
Oct 16, 2008 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
Jun 15, 2008 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.
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
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
Jun 22, 2007 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
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.
Jan 21, 2013 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
May 12, 2014 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
Jun 15, 2015 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.
Dec 15, 2012 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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 11, 2009 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.
May 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Normāls, ķiķināms gabaliņš.
Nov 13, 2015 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.
Sam Sattler
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, travel, audiobook
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
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
Mir ist nicht klar, wie dieses Buch an so gute Kritiken kommt. Letztendlich ist es eine Mischung aus Bettgeschichten und Niedermachen der Franzosen. Vieles ist völlig daneben (nicht ironisch übertrieben, sondern offensichtlich nicht verstanden), und etliche der vermutlichen Witze laufen ins Leere. Da habe ich schon sehr viel bessere Bücher über Länder und Kulturen gelesen, die tatsächlich lustig waren. Stephen Clarke ist eher peinlich.
Den zweiten Stern gibt es für einige lichte Momente, in dene
Ron Arden
May 21, 2012 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 19, 2014 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
Oct 03, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 03, 2015 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
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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
  • The Merde Factor (Paul West, #5)
  • Merde in Europe

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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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