Vantastic France is Steve Bichard’s first book but almost certainly not his last – it was inspired by his love of people watching and the plethora of opportunity to observe the characteristics of expats in France where he now lives.
Take a typical white van man with a short-fuse, his girlfriend and her teenage son – relocate them to a run-down old farm house in France – add financial problems, nutty neighbours, family secrets and misunderstandings and you have a recipe for fun and disaster.
Barry Taylor – the fictional “hero” of the book – has a bee in his bonnet about moving to France and persuades his partner and her son to come with him – they must overcome obstacles at all stages – in getting there, staying there and making a new life for themselves.
I won’t spoil the ending by telling you the whole plot but life for the trio isn’t always a bed of roses and from the very start there are forces in play determined to destroy their dream and bring a new life in France to an end. The book takes you through their trials and tribulations, the tears and the laughter and gradually reveals a much darker tangled web of a past life catching up on the present with dramatic repercussions.
One of the key players is Clarissa, a British expat neighbour of the family in their little village in Brittany. She is a woman of great snootiness, an interfering old bag, not much enamoured of the French people she now resides with and without much charm it seems. As an expat myself, I can promise you there is a “Clarissa” in pretty much every town and village where you find British expats and Steve Bichard is spot on with this character traits!