Wednesday, June 16, 2010

France through rose-tinted glasses

At work today I somehow came across this book while trawling Amazon for promising-looking publications :

"One year and one arduous home-renovation into their marriage, Ken and Bing head to the French countryside to celebrate their long-delayed honeymoon, swearing they're getting out of the home-fixing business for good. When they fall in love with the village of La Montaigne Noire, they find themselves buying a fixer-upper and starting all over again - but this time, in French! McAdams recounts their mishaps and misadventures with humor, capturing the essence of French village life, the awkwardness of being foreigners in a close-knit town, the couple's hilarious linguistic pratfalls, and how the mammoth undertaking that threatens to tear their new marriage apart ultimately brings them closer together and helps them find a place in the community they have grown to love."

1) Bing - seriously? Is that one of those American names like Chip and Randy, or is she just crazy?
2) This is the exact plot of every single one of these books
3) Yeah, I *bet* those are some hilarious pratfalls... That time Bing asked if she could baiser the neighbours' baby will have you in stitches!
4) Where the frick are these French villages, where the locals love nothing more than giving up their time and casseroles to guide stupid non-French-speaking Anglos through the process of buying up their patrimony, hiding? Okay, I've never renovated a crumbling country pile in France, but I have lived in rural France and various small- and medium-sized cities and no-one's ever beaten a path to my door to view me with narrow-eyed suspicion before taking me to their metaphorical bosom and sorting out every problem I could possibly encounter. I think the closest I've been to this mystical experience is every French person going "oh là là, that's far away" when I tell them I'm from New Zealand. Um, yeah. I mean, I've never been invited to dinner by colleagues who are well aware that I've moved here not knowing a soul, so how do these people in these books, for whom 'bumbling' is usually a kind epithet, always manage to be hobnobbing with the small-town mayor within a month?
5) Okay, okay, while I'm amazed there's still room in the market for these things, I do realise these books are meant to be fantasy for people who will probably never stir out of their home in the American Midwest (or wherever)... Just bear in mind they bear very little relationship to real life! (And this particular example sounds like quite possibly the worst book ever...)

PS Do we say patrimony in English? We do, right? It's not just that I see the word 'patrimoine' at work on a daily basis?
PPS Stop me if I show any further signs of being one of those irritating people who are all "oh, I just can't speak English anymore, I'm *so* immersed in French!" Yep, it happens that the French word for something will pop into your head more readily than the English sometimes, but I forget words for stuff all the time at home in NZ too, let's not bang on about it on a daily basis.


  1. I'd say it's a pretty safe bet you'd never hear 'patrimony' used. (Maybe in a legal office?) Why would you see the french version of it every day?

  2. It means 'heritage' in French, but yeah, I looked it up after writing this, much narrower meaning in English...

  3. i'm literally laughing out loud at this post and i'll probably read it again as soon as I finish this comment because it is HILARIOUS. I've got the same questions as you about these people. You know, I actually did renovate an apartment a year into my marriage, and I can tell you that it was nothing to write a book about!
    And for the record, I taught in the Normandy countryside and it was far from "taking me into their bosom" or "bringing me casseroles" -- it was like, "je me mefis.. je reste loin de cette bizarre petite americaine...". Definitely NOT my best experience in France!

    p.s. patrimony .. um.. you know, i've been in France so long that my English totally sucks now.. can't help ya there ;)

  4. I believe that you see the expression "patrimony" used all the time in Frane because no-one knows who their father is!

  5. I didn't know that gay marriage was legal in the USA. Ken and Bing! I mean the only Bing I've ever heard of played golf and sang "White Christmas" when he wasn't thrashing his wife and children.

  6. Ha! This made me laugh. It's true - I come across many such books when I am looking for books to add to Packabook and even list some of them on the site (since there is a demand!) but have to admit each time I find a new one, there is a little groan inside.

    In my view, it's best to stick to fiction set in France, then at least you know it's designed to be an entertaining story and nothing else.

    If there is any you would especially recommend - I'd love to hear them...


  7. I hate books like that! It does seem like all of them are the same. Dumb anglophones who don't bother to learn French or French culture who just decide to move to France one day because they want to and can. ugh.

  8. I love books like this one. I mean where would we be without the renowned "A year in Provence". A year in Arkansas just doesn't have the same ring to it. And where else but France can you find cathedrals populated by hunchbacks, toilets manned by evil looking women demanding money with menaces whilst you urinate and gendarmes who are permanently pissed.

  9. Hunchbacks in cathedrals - they were the good old days. Nowadays its paedophiles.

  10. All the english people who moved to france are now bankrupt, with houses worth much less than they paid for them, and unable to sell... so trapped and miserable. Where are their casseroles now?

  11. Where are their casseroles now? Sounds like a post-modern version of ou sont les neiges d'antans!

  12. Brilliant - we have a programme coming on TV this week about a couple who move to the Frnech alps to re-open a mountain chalet resort and rescue it from its rundown state. I believe (although this still has to be confimed) that they enlist the help of the mayor and local villagers and in no time at all have enslaved the local community with their wit, englich buffoonery and mispronunciation. (that's english mispronounced - they speak perfect french).


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