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April 2020 Book reviews

This month, the team read Don’t be Deceived by the French, Philodog and Other Stories, and French for Divorce

Don’t be Deceived by the French

Elizabeth Malet Spradbery, Matador, £7.99, ISBN: 978-1-78306-117-4


Approximately 19 million British nationals visit France every year – and a little help with French can sometimes be needed, perhaps more if you live here and have a group of French friends.

We all struggle sometimes to find the right word, or the right expression to express what we want.

In this book, Francophile Elizabeth Malet Spradbery has made an in-depth work on the French language to create a useful and very simple guide for anybody interested in learning French, whether you are a serious student of the language, or merely dabbling.

The first focus of her wordly wise attentions are the many false friends in English and French which can create misunderstandings in different life situations, such as car (which is, confusingly, a coach in French, when it is not doing important work as ‘because’), or brushing (this means blow-dry in French) – we could go on, but no doubt you have your own examples...

She also goes further with a chapter dedicated to phrases, expressions and other proverbs where you can find the French and English equivalents of every expression you might want to use – and maybe even a few you have not even considered employing.

For the most accomplished French-speaking ‘Anglos’, there is also a special section on the subjunctive – which, GCSE French-student relatives in the UK will confirm, can appear very difficult to use – and another part about the meanings of different acronyms and abbreviations.

More than 200 words have been analysed for the book and it is great to dip into and discover new French expressions, whether or not you are interested in taking a deeper dive into the language with the clearly knowledgeable author.


Philodog and Other Stories

Tony Smith, €10, Frenchbites14

If your dogs could speak, what exactly would they say?

This is what author Tony Smith seems to be trying to understand in the first part of the book, a succession of stories, in which the first part is dedicated to different adventures with dogs.

Although the first part can quickly become boring and a little repetitive, the second is perfect if you are simply looking for an enjoyable read and occasional honest-to-goodness laughs.

The author, a Londoner who now lives in southwest France with his French-Italian wife, has plenty of stories to tell from his first years of living with a French woman in London, to their move to France, meeting the family, and learning about French and Italian culture.

Any reader who lives in France or has had a relationship with a foreign person can easily relate to these stories, which are mainly made of dialogues and jokes between the two lovers.

Philodog and Other Stories may be far from bestseller material – but it is an easy and entertaining book if you need something light to read on the train.

It is based on real events from the author’s life which makes us wonder what other true stories are out there.


French for Divorce

Carys M Evans, £6.99, Createspace,ISBN: 978-1-540762146

Living in France with her French husband, a house and two children, British woman Catherine thinks she has it all.

But her world turns upside down when she inadvertently overhears a conversation between her husband and one of his colleagues.

She discovers that her perfect husband – who she calls the “French exception” – has been having an affair for more than a year with a Polish woman.

All his “work trips” were just lies and while she was at home taking care of the children, he was entertaining another woman.

Angry, shocked and betrayed, she quickly kicks him out of the house while the children do not really understand what happens.

More than a story of betrayal, the book deals with the trials of divorce and the judicial system in France, as well as issues around learning to co-parent.

Catherine struggles to regain control of her life. While going through personal difficulties, she still has to think about her career and write the book she has been working on for months.  

Despite the sad storyline, the book is written in a way that highlights the differences between French and British cultures, and it turns out to be quite funny in the end.

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