Book Review: A Year In The Merde

I picked up this book while browsing at Borders in Heathrow International Airport as I was exchanging flight to return back home. The fact that I spotted it after publishing “The French Way of Life” post was a clear sign that I have to dive in its pages. And thank God I did. Stephen Clarke has intricately crafted a novel that is half guidebook and half fictitious autobiography that bursts with witty humor, rich language, and simple execution.

A Year In The Merde recounts the fictional adventures and misadventures of Paul West, an English businessman sent to Paris to create and open an English tearoom as he encounters the language and culture of Paris. Throughout the book, Paul gets to experience French charm, French inefficiency, sublime French food, slimy French corruption and political intrigue, a seemingly endless series of strikes, and more sex than he can shake his weakened British stick at. It’s informative, humorous, and outrageous, all in the same time.

It’s pretty important to mention that the author himself is a British expat residing in Paris, so we can definitely assert that those affairs that Paul goes through aren’t necessarily fabricated. However, it is also important to note that those incidents are exaggerated a bit, especially when it deals with sex and public strikes. Also, I wasn’t real interested in Paul; he is shallow and lacking any qualities to make me root for him to succeed, but it was the supporting characters that was genuinely satiated with life and realism. Furthermore, the most interesting thing to observe is the interaction between the French and the English and just laugh out at the stereotypes and misconceptions that have with one another. In the end, I can candidly conclude that Merde one of the most enjoyable books I have read recently. The story is well told, with just the right balance between understatement and outright hilarity. A definite pick-up for those of us who love and hate France. If you loved this book, make sure to grab the following two books that are part of Paul West hilarious trilogy.


7 responses to this post.

  1. I liked this book too, he became more French then English. I like his wit and how he just falls for women! lol


  2. Posted by Sushi on June 8, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    lol sounds interesting. I have a few similar books from British female perspectives. Would be interesting to compare the male point of view to the woman’s in the same context.


  3. How about Peter Mayle ?


  4. I read that book on my way back to the States and was hiccuping with uncontrollable bouts of laughters. It is hysterically funny. Perhaps you need to be a bit familiar with the French people to truly get it. The second book was a riot as well, the third one not so much.
    Also: BUYER BEWARE: “Merde Actually” and “In the Merde for Love” are exactly the same book with different titles. Imagine my surprise when I got stuck on an 8 hour flight with a book I had actually read a few months prior. Not a good feeling!!!


  5. @Marzouq

    LOL, yes, even the author himself has become more French and started to have an English-French accent if you’ve seen his many interviews.


    Do share! Please 🙂


    Ahh, you mean the author of “A Year In Provence” and “A Good Year”. Yes, that guy is basically the pioneer of this particular genre. Although, his novels are usually more series than the one here.


    Yes, that would be a great idea if I have enough time and the money 🙂

    Kudos, on the warning though it would suck if someone wound up buying two versions of the same book.


  6. Posted by coolienne on June 13, 2008 at 5:07 am

    Yyes… this very one. 🙂


  7. Posted by hyrisha on May 5, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    anything the auther says is true, I am here and I see things that the author mentions everyday. for sure it is exactly as was described in the book.


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