Saturday, January 23, 2010

#6 - A Year In The Merde

Colour me foolish: I finished this whole book thinking it was a memoir before realizing that a) the author and the protagonist have different last names and b) wondering why I didn't hear about the political/social events in the news. Sigh. It's been a long week.

Stephen Clarke's cute, engaging novel follows Paul West, an upstart, up and coming restaurateur who moves from London to Paris to accept a job to open a series of tea rooms for France's largest meat producer. Paul finds it hard to settle into life in Paris. Of course, it's difficult to move to a new country, and his learning curve along the way remains hilarious. Having never been anything but a tourist in Paris, I admire how hard he works to fit in -- stepping in all kinds of merde along the way.

The narrative style of the novel reminded me of Nick Hornby -- Clarke has an easy-going way of telling a good story. Even when things go wrong for Paul, and they do (or else there wouldn't be a book), it's still a lighthearted read. Something perfect for a sick day spent at home on the couch with a hot water bottle and some Vick's vapour rub. I've been thinking a lot about what it would be like to live somewhere else, even for a year. And this book gave me some wanderlust -- it was also lovely to read a novel set in a Paris I know and understand, from the perspective of someone who obviously just wants to (eventually) fit in.

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