April 2019 book reviews

Connexion journalists read the latest French releases. To be fair, each gets 20 minutes’ reading time. This month: French Farce, Playing the martyr, Mad enchantment, D-Day, and a stranger in Paris

27 March 2019
By Connexion journalist

French Farce, Stanley George ***EDITOR'S CHOICE***

£7.25 ISBN: 978-1-79-525420-5

Moving countries can be difficult but this book might make it easier.

You can have a real cultural shock when arriving in France, especially if you move into a rural village of 120 inhabitants like the author Stanley George.

Mr George looks back on his own experience of moving to France with his wife and their dogs 13 years ago. Although some things have changed in that time, he explains some crucial differences between French and English culture.

There is a special chapter about swearing in French and also sections about la pétanque and grape picking.

Although he makes fun of French people and their lifestyle, there are some truths here that can only make you laugh – everybody can easily relate to the writer’s story.

We all have experienced some ‘awkward’ situations where you are unable to introduce yourself or have a proper conversation with someone, or a moment when you do not understand why something just does not work the same way as in your home country.

The author points out quirks of Christmas, village festivities and hunting in such a way that might leave you in tears of laughter.

You should also learn something as he gives some historical explanations as to what makes French people so ‘French’.

 

Playing the Martyr, Ian Moore

Pause Publications, £8.99 ISBN: 978-1-79-309559-6

Beyond the interest of the murder-themed story itself, there is something about the main character Juge Lombard that makes you want to know more as soon as you start reading this book.

The story starts in a supermarket where the mother of Matthieu Lombard was arrested for protesting against Nutella. The link with the rest of the story is not very clear but we quickly understand that Mr Lombard will be the interesting character to follow.

Half-English half-French, he seems quite lost about his own identity. He finds himself in a difficult situation after the death of his wife and he is thinking about leaving his city of Tours for good. However, a new investigation will make him stay longer and make him discover more about who he is at the same time.

Helped by his colleagues who also despise him at times for being ‘the English guy’, he will do everything he can to catch the murderer and to honour his own name in front of his bosses.

Through this book, Ian G. Moore helps us discover more about the story of Tours and the community of British people there.

Although the book mainly deals with a succession of murders, there are some funny parts about dual culture and the different communities of French and British people in the Loire Valley.

 

Mad Enchantment, Ross King

Bloomsbury, £25 ISBN: 978-1-4088-6195-0

Just another biography of Claude Monet, you might think.

However, this one highlights a specific period of his life.

The book not only focuses on the well-known water lily paintings but also gives a context to the creation of these iconic works, which can now be found in Paris and London galleries.

It immerses you in the last years of life of the painter, who decided to leave Paris for the little village of Giverny (Normandy).

His house and his friends (artist Paul Cézanne and politician Georges Clémenceau) are part of the story.

After losing his wife and suffering from cataract-clouded vision, Monet was encouraged by his friends and the new environment to start his series of water lilies in 1914, in the last years of his life.

The book includes images and historic references.

 

D-Day, Giles Milton

John Murray, £25 ISBN: 978-1-473-64901-9

If you like history and are not tired of hearing about the Second World War, this may be a read for you.

Otherwise these stories of people involved in D-Day may be less gripping.

The book tells the story of soldiers who survived the Allied invasion of Normandy in the format of a non-fictional tale told by different characters.

It starts a few weeks before D-day and different points of view (British, French, German…) are shown. For once we also hear the voices of some women involved, notably a nurse whose account makes the story more emotionally gripping.

These testimonies give more humanity to the usual accounts we hear of the war and make you feel like you are at the heart of it – clearly Giles Milton has done a lot of research to give us these insights.

We learn more details such as soldiers’ nicknames, friends and family, weather conditions...

The book provides all of the essential information missing from school history books and some pictures to contextualise everything and make history more accessible.

 

A Stranger in Paris,  Karen Webb

Impress books, £12.99 ISBN: 978-1-911293-31-6

A brand new life starts for Karen when she becomes an au pair in Paris, in a book which is largely inspired by the author’s own experiences.

After graduating from the University of Aberystwyth, Karen is looking for what to do and how to manage her life.

She does not want to get married to someone who does not respect her and she will give up everything to find true love. She is like a new Bridget Jones and reminds us of our teenage years, when craving love and adventures.

Looking for the love of her life, her ex-boyfriend David who she met in Aberystwyth, she will quickly realise that he is nowhere to be found.

She then meets hundreds of different people in her new city and she takes us on her joyful journey as her obsession with romance takes her into the arms of different men.

However, she will not give up her dream of love and she will keep trying to find it in the French capital throughout the book.

Through her adventures, Karen discovers more about the French culture and the French language, which are very different from what she thought.

A Stranger in Paris is the first part of three-part memoir by British writer Karen Webb, who moved to France in 1989 and now lives in Gascony.  

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