I’ve got a new favourite author – Mark Greenside. As an English expat who has lived in France for over fourteen years, I have for decades enjoyed reading what feels like hundreds of ‘a new life in France’ type of books, however for me this one REALLY sums up life in France. It grabbed me right from the title which is accurate: I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany, because no matter how good your French gets, how you dress, or how much you integrate into society you will always stand out as a ‘stranger.’ But that doesn’t matter as everyone who isn’t French is the same, English, American, Dutch…
Back in 1991, little did Mark Greenside, an American, know that giving in reluctantly to his then girlfriend Kathryn’s desire to visit France, would change his life forever.
Resigned to his fate, but pleasantly surprised after a wonderful flight with Air France, the couple were quickly thrown into the seething mass of humanity which is Charles de Gaulle Airport, and the Gare Montparnasse. However, once on the train to Brittany it wasn’t long before the hustle and bustle of Paris was quickly forgotten. Passing through beautiful countryside, they eventually reached Finistère, Brittany. From there a taxi took them to a beautiful village where they rented a house.
Situated thirty feet from the quay, the blue shuttered, white stucco house looked idyllic, and they retrieved the keys from the caretaker Madam Piriou. Their initial excitement was unfortunately tinged with a touch of reality in the harsh light of day the next morning when they discover heavy rains have wreaked havoc. However, there is a silver lining to every black cloud, and when they asked Madam P for assistance they discovered first-hand the wonderful caring nature of the French.
Through the author’s eyes this beautiful area of Brittany comes alive, from beautiful harbours to wonderful beaches and glittering seas. You can almost smell the air and taste the food, his style of writing is so descriptive. However all good things have to come to an end, don’t they? France had captured the author’s heart, but even he didn’t realise quite how much until the week before his return to California. It was then that the formidable Madam P insisted on taking him for a car ride, a journey which would ultimately change his life, and result in him becoming a home owner.
Anyone who loves France or wants to holiday there will love this book, it’s told with great humour and I laughed at his observation that the French people are laid back all the time (something which some expats never get used to,) and yet drive like they are on a race track all the time, even down tiny roads. I loved his wonderful descriptions of market days, and the local fete days when sleepy villages swell into thousands of people thronging into the closed off centre of a village to party till the early hours. And French packaging, just don’t get me started on that!
Everything about France is captured in this gem of a book, the sights, sounds, trials and tribulations, but most importantly it is a celebration of this beautiful country and the French love of life and family. Highly Recommended!
You’ll Never be French by Mark Greenside is available from Amazon…
French bookworm is an expat and author who lives in Pays de la Loire in France