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A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke
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A Year in the Merde (original 2004; edition 2006)

by Stephen Clarke

Series: Merde (1)

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1,573434,644 (3.3)39
Member:MillieHennessy
Title:A Year in the Merde
Authors:Stephen Clarke
Info:Bloomsbury USA (2006), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:None

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A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke (2004)

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English (38)  French (3)  Lithuanian (1)  German (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Funny stories, but insightful in understanding some of the cultural differences between English and French culture. ( )
  AllInStride | Apr 20, 2016 |
When Paul West starts his new job in September he is altogether unaware of the true character and the machinations of his boss, Jean-Marie Martin, who is in his early fifties, rich, handsome, impeccably dressed, friendly, and prepared to pay him a good salary. West does not know yet that Martin, officially decorated for supporting the French economy, is illegally importing cheap British beef (the ban imposed during the BSE crisis not having been lifted yet); that through his political connections he has secured for his daughter Élodie a cheap, council-subsidized HLM apartment; that he associates with the far right; that, although married, he is having an affair with someone from the office; and that he wants to sell him, Paul West, a cottage in the country quite close to the site of a future nuclear power plant.

West is allotted a motley crew who are supposed to work together on his project. However, everyone, including Martin, turns out to be very reluctant to learn what West has to tell them, for example that "My Tea Is Rich" is not a good name for a chain of English tea rooms. Soon West realizes that no one is following his orders, that nothing is happening, that he is being paid for doing, or at least achieving, absolutely nothing. In the end, his contract is prematurely terminated, and he spends some weeks teaching English. ("It was much tougher than working in an office. You can't e-mail your mates while standing in front of a class.")

His love life during that year is an emotional roller coaster ride. In all, West has sex with four different women during that year: Élodie, his boss's daughter; Alexa, who eventually cannot put up with his apolitical outlook on life; Marie, a black girl who willingly drops him when her boyfriend returns from abroad; and Florence, half Indian, the girl with whom he plans to open his own tea room in Paris at the end of the novel.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Audio book read by John Lee

This is a “true story” of one Brit’s experiences working for a French company in Paris in 2002-2003. Paul West is hired to open a chain of “typical” English tearooms in Paris. We quickly learn that he barely understands, let alone speaks French, he’s saddled with a team that isn’t at all enthusiastic about working on the project, and he can’t even seem to order a normal size cup of coffee. Still he manages to luck into a pretty good living situation – rooming with his boss’s daughter in subsidized student housing. As he traverses the streets of Paris and cultural nuances of the French, he soon finds himself stepping in the “merde” … both literally and figuratively.

I was hoping for a Peter Mayle style, but was disappointed. Clarke certainly tackles the French political climate, the people’s attitudes towards work, food and/or sex, the unions, and the love/hate relationship with all things English. There are some humorous scenes, but nothing laugh-out-loud funny. John Lee does a great job with the various characters and their differing accents. Three stars is a little generous, but (*shrugs with arms extended, palm up*) it did remind me of what I love (and hate) about France.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
Stereotypical. Mildly amusing, at best. I am always a bit wary of books that come highly recommended, especially when it comes to humor, and I told the person recommending as much No surprise then that this was a bit of an anti-climax. Having said that, easy and quick read. Came off faster than a band-aid. ( )
  maximnoronha | Apr 18, 2015 |
Funny in parts; some language and translation discussions; interesting view of a culture (in this case, Parisian) from the outside looking in. Also, seeing one's own culture as an outsider after living elsewhere for a few months. The French like to go on strike. The plot sort of goes full circle (or spiral), fitting for a story that should cover a full year---although, since everyone goes on vacation in August and there are a lot of four-day weekends before that, it only goes from September to May. ( )
  raizel | Aug 22, 2014 |
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Epigraph
The chief beauty of this book lies not so much in its literary style or in the extent and usefulness of the information it conveys, as its simple truthfulness. Its pages form the record of events that really happened. All that has been done is to colour them.
Jerome K.Jerome, preface to Three Men in a Boat
Dedication
The author would like to thank the French government for introducing the thirty-five-hour week and giving him time to do more interesting things on a Friday afternoon than work. Merci.
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The year does not begin in January.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Not to be confused with the Paul West book with the same name.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0552772968, Paperback)

Paul West, a young Englishman, arrives in Paris to start a new job - and finds out what the French are really like They do eat a lot of cheese, some of which smells like pigs' droppings. They don't wash their armpits with garlic soap. Going on strike really is the second national participation sport after petanque. And, yes, they do use suppositories In his first novel, Stephen Clarke gives a laugh-out-loud account of the pleasures and perils of being a Brit in France. Less quaint than A Year in Provence, less chocolatey than Chocolat, A Year in the Merde will tell you how to get served by the grumpiest Parisian waiter; how to make perfect vinaigrette every time; how to make amour - not war; and how not to buy a house in the French countryside

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:40 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A Year in Merde tells the story of Paul West, a twenty-seven-year-old Brit brought to Paris by a French company to open a chain of tearooms. Soon enough, he finds himself juggling a group of grumbling French employees, a treacherous Parisian boss, and a succession of lusty girlfriends (one of whom happens to be the bosss morally challenged daughter). He soon becomes immersed in the contradictions of French culture: the French are not all cheese-eating surrender monkeys, though they do eat a lot of smelly cheese, and they are still in shock at having been stupid enough to sell Louisiana, thus losing the chance to make French the global language. The book also reveals the secrets of how to get the best out of the grumpiest Parisian waiter, how to survive a French business meeting, and how not to buy a house in the French countryside.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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