As an expat living in France for over ten years, I have to say this book is really excellent. Before moving here, and indeed since, I have enjoyed devouring every book I can find, eager to gain from others’ experiences, and learn little nuances about this wonderful country and its people.
The author is now retired, as many expats are, however 27 years ago when he and his wife Sue, decided to move across the channel with their three young children, it was a totally different story. Although they already had experience of owning a 20 acre farm in the UK, for Deputy Head Garry Holding it was a big leap of faith to move over, at a time before all the popular “Wish you were here” type programmes were being aired.
They were very disciplined, and carried out a lot of research before making the move, however even so, it was not easy. Garry was determined to work as a teacher and found, as with many jobs, British qualifications do not necessarily count in France; you have to retrain, and do the job the ‘French way.’ However, determined and resolute he overcame all the obstacles. For me, not having school-aged children, the insight into the school system here was also very interesting.
As soon as the family arrived, they were embraced by their French neighbours and introduced into everything French, quickly learning how things were done in the hamlet, and about local customs. The wonderful sense of community and neighbourly support shines through throughout this book, but also this family’s 100% commitment to their adopted country. Not only do this amazing couple bring up their own children, coping with the problems children normally have, but also settling them into a new country, and becoming a foster family for mentally handicapped people, offering them stability and support.
This book is for anyone interested in France, even if you have already moved here. It contains examples of those little things which sometimes you do wrongly unfortunately, because you are British! Such as unintentionally offending French friends. It is also laced with little tips which, once learnt, make your life here so much easier.
It is vividly descriptive of rural French life, and for anyone who loves to cook, there are a lot of recipes to try. The old traditions are alive and very much adhered to in the countryside, and I must say that some of the regional speciality recipes are definitely not for the faint-hearted.
This book is absolutely fantastic, a no holds barred, frank look at what rural French life is really like. Absorbing reading, whether you are just looking for a good story, or you decide to make the move over the channel. That the author never regretted the move is obvious, and I just have to quote this line ‘Some of our friends think we are brave, others think we are foolish – but all of them envy us.’
Reviewer French Bookworm is an author and book lover living in France.