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Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living by Mark Greenside (Review)

Book cover for Not Quite Mastering the Art of French Living by Mark GreensideAfter reading Mark Greenside’s first and extremely entertaining book, ‘I’ll Never Be French (No Matter What I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany, I couldn’t wait to start this one, and I was not disappointed!

The first book tells how in 1991 a reluctant Mark agrees to visit Brittany with a girlfriend, and how that visit sparked a love affair with France and in particular with a small village in Finistère, Brittany.

Now, over twenty years later American Mark spends his summers in France.

Although a story, right from the first page this book is jam packed with essential information for anyone visiting France or living there, in fact, I think it should be mandatory reading. The trials and tribulations of the autoroutes and the attitude of French drivers, queues anywhere, the sometimes unusual food are highlighted. Everyday life, and the myriad of other obstacles and situations that an unsuspecting expat discovers and has to overcome are reviewed.

What did I personally enjoy about the book? Well it is hard to choose, there were so many enjoyable scenarios portrayed throughout. For example, shopping is a real eye-opener here and one is wise to remember the immortal line in the wonderful film ‘A Good Life’ – “In France the customer is always wrong.”

Many of the stories are very amusing, especially Mark’s shopping trolley incident, it brought back memories of our early days when I tried to take a shopping trolley off an elderly gentleman to save him walking it back. He looked at me as if I was mad, it must have seemed to him I was trying to steal the euro in the little slot which I didn’t know about as we didn’t have them where I came from. There is also no truer sentence written than ‘buy what you like when you see it and buy in bulk.’ It never fails to astound me that the shops finish a run on a popular product never to stock it again.

I just loved his take on life here, it is wonderful, but also quirky in many respects. I have been told countless times that it is like England 30 years ago, and it is,  people take time to get to know you but then will do anything for you. Village life and neighbours are very important, as is supporting local businesses and products. However every day you are reminded you are not in your homeland when at 12 noon the world stops for lunch, and ten minutes before – the roads become race tracks.

At the beginning I said that this book should be essential reading and I really believe it should be. Notwithstanding the incredible volume of information it contains, perhaps the most important thing is the wonderful way the author has brought to life his experiences in the beautiful country of France and the generous nature of its inhabitants. Highly Recommend!

Available from Amazon

Read our review of Mark Greenside’s “I’ll Never be French”

French Bookworm is an author and reviewer, a British expat who now lives in Pays de la Loire, France

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