Book Review: (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living

I’ve just finished a gem of a book and would like to share it with you. It’s (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living by Mark Greenside and it is funny as heck. I like to read a book before going to sleep but my wife wouldn’t let me with this one because I kept laughing so hard I was shaking the bed.

Mark is an American who spends every summer in a house he bought in a tiny village in Brittany. Somehow, despite living part-time in France for decades, he has not managed to learn the language. This leads to inevitable mishaps, all of which he describes in a hilarious style. As he puts it, “If you’re lucky, some of the things that happened to me will happen to you. If you’re luckier, they won’t.”

We learn what happens when you accidentally end up in the middle of a combination pig roast / talent show with a busload of elderly French tourists. And what it is like to try and fail (yet again) to prepare a meal that satisfies your French neighbors. There are funny stories about shopping, banking, driving (including a car accident that turns out surprisingly well) and more. Mark has an engaging style that allows him to tell these and other stories with humor and humility.

As someone who lives part-time in France myself, I think that Mark has done an especially good job at describing the cultural differences between France and the United States. And I was touched when he talked about his French friends, people with whom he can barely have a conversation, yet who have become “people I care about and who care about me.”

If you are looking for a book about France that is thoughtful, heartfelt and really, really funny, this is one you won’t want to miss. Highly recommended.

Synopsis

Every year upon arriving in Plobien, the small Breton town where he spends his summers, American writer Mark Greenside picks back up where he left off with his faux pas–filled Francophile life. Mellowed and humbled, but not daunted (OK, slightly daunted), he faces imminent concerns: What does he cook for a French person? Who has the right-of-way when entering or exiting a roundabout? Where does he pay for a parking ticket? And most dauntingly of all, when can he touch the tomatoes?

Despite the two decades that have passed since Greenside’s snap decision to buy a house in Brittany and begin a bi-continental life, the quirks of French living still manage to confound him. Continuing the journey begun in his 2009 memoir about beginning life in France, (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living details Greenside’s daily adventures in his adopted French home, where the simplest tasks are never straightforward but always end in a great story. Through some hits and lots of misses, he learns the rules of engagement, how he gets what he needs―which is not necessarily what he thinks he wants―and how to be grateful and thankful when (especially when) he fails, which is more often than he can believe.

Introducing the English-speaking world to the region of Brittany in the tradition of Peter Mayle’s homage to Provence, Mark Greenside’s first book, I’ll Never Be French, continues to be among the bestselling books about the region today. Experienced Francophiles and armchair travelers alike will delight in this new chapter exploring the practical and philosophical questions of French life, vividly brought to life by Greenside’s humor and affection for his community.

(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living  is available at Amazon.

Provence in the Rain

Provence is famous for clear blue skies. Its brilliant sunlight has attracted painters such as Cezanne and Matisse as well as scads of tourists. There are plenty of things to see outdoors in Provence, like the colorful ochre mines of Roussillon and the lavender fields of Sault. But what if you happen to visit when the weather is not so great, like it has been this spring? Can you still enjoy Provence in the rain?

Yes ! Read all about how to enjoy a rainy day in Provence at The Good Life France.

Why I Love France

Annette Charlton has a great website called A French Collection with lots of interesting information about France and even a little boutique of fun stuff to buy.

She recently asked five of her favorite “Frenchy” bloggers to write short posts about why they love France. I was honored to be included in such a terrific group and happily wrote about why my wife Val and I love the country so much.

If you’d like to see what the five of us said, here’s the link.

Book Review—Paris Ever After by K.S.R. Burns

SYNOPSIS

Amy didn’t realize how stale her life was until she jetted off to Paris without telling a soul—not even her husband—and had the adventure of a lifetime. Now as she tries to establish herself in the City of Light, she finds that despite a fun (and quirky) group of friends and the ability to indulge in French pastries whenever she wants, reinventing her life is much harder than she imagined.

Then on Amy’s thirtieth birthday, two unexpected visitors leave her wondering if she will soon be saying au revoir to Paris and the new life she’s struggled to build. Her estranged husband, Will, shows up—but is he interested in reconciliation or separation? And a young woman who arrives on Amy’s doorstep unleashes chaos that could push Amy out into the street.

As Amy’s Parisian dream starts to fall apart, she must decide: return to the stability of Will and Phoenix (if that’s even still an option) or forge her way forward in Paris? Amid secrets and surprises, set in enchanting gardens, cozy cafés, and glittering Parisian streets, Amy must choose between two very different worlds. And each has a claim on her heart.

MY REVIEW

This is a tale of love found, lost…and found again?

Amy’s got a lot going on—homes on two continents, a marriage on the rocks, and friends who may not be what they seem. K.S.R. Burns does a masterful job of drawing us into Amy’s world as she lurches from crisis to crisis. I had a hard time putting the book down because I kept wanting to know what happened next. And talk about surprises! This book is full of them.

Paris Ever After is a well-written novel with a fast-paced plot and a colorful cast of characters. One of those characters is Paris itself and Burns draws a loving portrait of this most beautiful of cities. As you turn the pages, you’ll find yourself longing to nibble on a buttery croissant at a café near Notre Dame, or maybe take a stroll along the banks of the Seine. And don’t forget the hot chocolate!

What path will Amy ultimately choose? Read this book and find out!

Highly recommended.

Paris Ever After is available at Amazon.

French People Are Like Coconuts

Imagine this: The PTSA meeting hasn’t started yet and two parents in the audience are chatting away—about their kids, their vacations, the hot new movie in theatres. After a few minutes, one puts out her hand and says, “Oh, by the way, my name’s Jessica.”

In the US, a scene like this—two strangers talking like old friends—wouldn’t be surprising. But would it happen in France? Pas du tout! In France, it’s considered weird to just start talking with someone you don’t know. And if a stranger tried to chat with them, a French person’s first thought would be a suspicious “What do they want from me?”

Learn how to bridge the cultural gap between French and Americans at Frenchly.

You Speak French and You Don’t Even Know It!

“Let’s get a table in the front part of the restaurant. We can watch television and look at the menu while we wait for my cousin.”

Table, part, restaurant, television, menu, and cousin — those are all French words, even spelled the same way as in French. And if you order salad and onion soup, that’s three more (salade, oignon, soupe). You’re speaking French!

As much as half of the English language comes from French. Even Queen Elizabeth’s royal coat of arms is in French! Read all about it at Frenchly.

The Art of Being French–Living Like a Local

The French Waiting Room Protocol

France is a country with a lot of social rules. You say “bonjourwhen you enter a store. You have salad at the end of a meal rather than the beginning. You kiss your friends rather than hugging them. And then, there’s French waiting room protocol; it’s very serious business in France.

Learn all about it at My French Life.

Top 100 French Blogs and Websites for Francophiles

I’m thrilled to announce that this website, Life in Provence, has been named by Feedspot as one of the Top 100 French Blogs and Websites for Francophiles. Many thanks to all of you who read and share my stories.

The Top 100 list includes plenty of terrific sites and I encourage you to check it out. Here are a few of my favorites.

 

Perfectly Provence. If you want news and stories about Provence, don’t miss this one! Food, travel, sights to see, recipes, current happenings–it’s all here.

My French Life – Ma Vie Francaise. Lots of interesting stories about French culture, lifestyle, language, history and more. Check out the French book club, an online group that reads and discusses a different French book each month.

Frenchly. News, art, style, culture and all things French, including plenty of funny stories.

The Good Life France. This is one of the best websites out there for things to do and see in France. Plus it’s entertaining as Janine Marsh tells us about life in her little corner of France, along with her dozens of ducks, geese, chickens, cats and dogs.

The Provence Post. Another great site about Provence, with lots of information for those planning to travel to this beautiful area.

France Travel Tips. Janice Chung has been to France dozens of times, tracking down fascinating but lesser-known places to see. Here she shares her tips with us.

Oui in France. Diane moved to France with her French husband and shares stories of life as an American expat in France.

French Word-A-Day. Follow the adventures of an American expat in France and learn French while you do!

The French Village Diaries. Entertaining stories about life in a small French town, plus frequent reviews of books set in France.

A French Collection. Funny stories of a family that somehow splits its time between France and Australia.