Monday, 22 September 2014

Book Review No 11: A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke

I seem to make a habit of reading these sort of books when I'm on holiday. I've mentioned before that I tend to take books away with me that have languished on the bookcase for far too long; books that I'm clearly not sure about and ones that I might be happy to leave behind. And this fitted all those categories.

There was a time when books about people living overseas, travelling the world, or just doing odd/different things with their lives appealed to me. Perhaps it was a phase I was going through where I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my own life, and I looked for inspiration in these sort of books. Now I'm older and I still don't know what I want to do with my life, but books like this don't inspire me, instead they tend to annoy me (my reviews of this book, this one and especially this one are cases in point.) Mostly they seem to be trying too hard to be funny or outrageous or both. I don't mind funny or outrageous, but I do object to the 'trying too hard' bit. So, why do I keep reading them? Well, they're on my bookcase, they're great for holidays (see reasons above), and maybe, one day, I'll find one that I really enjoy.

I'm afraid I can't add the usual 'blurb from the back' here as I left the book in Spain (which just goes to show how far behind I am with my reviews since we were there at the end of May...), so I'll just crack on with my thoughts/review. The book is definitely very readable; it's the sort of book you can fly through in a couple of days if you're in the zone, although I admit it took me probably three or four days to finish (at home it would probably have taken a good couple of weeks, if not longer.) There are quite a few laugh-out-loud moments, a few snigger-to-yourself sections and also some interesting points to learn about the French. However, the author clearly had such a bad time living and working in France that it does beg the question: why did you stay there for a year then?

I think it's fair to say that I enjoyed the book, but I certainly didn't love it and certainly I won't go hunting for any other books by this author. If you have an interest in France or have ever lived, worked or travelled there, perhaps the book would be worth a read; but, then again, it might prove extremely annoying to anyone who knows France well and who sees this Englishman as a complete moron and xenophobe.

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