10 June 2012

Book Reviews

I've taken it upon myself to read as much about France and Spain and the differences between both of their cultures and the British culture before I depart, so I don't get too much of a "culture shock" when I arrive in either country. I haven't been able to find any books concerning Spain/Britain culture as of yet, but here are the few I've read over the last couple of weeks concerning France/Britain.

TOUCHÉ: Why Britain and France Are So Different and Why They Do Things in Opposite Ways - Agnes Catherine Poirier
This is an excellent analytical account of the differences between French and British politics, culture and economy which draws on Poirier's personal experiences for the most part. It is raw in parts and at times it is hard to come to terms with the fact that what she is describing is in fact us, the British. Written by anybody other than an Anglophile, the book could have come across as offensive, but as it's written by somebody who has adored England and the English from a young age, the overall feel of the book is simply of a good friend giving you a slap across the face and informing you of some bad habits you've developed over the years.

Rating: 4.5/5. 

A CERTAIN JE NE SAIS QUOI: The Ideal Guide to Sounding, Acting and Shrugging Like the French - Charles Timoney
This book is less analytic of the French culture and more about personal experience. Timoney, being an Anglo-Saxon in Paris, gives us an idea of the things he feels are the most important to realise/remember when visiting France so as not to make any of those infamous social faux pas (such as replying with "moi" when your waiter asks "qui est l'onglet?" because you misheard it as "qui est l'anglais?", much to the amusement of your co-workers.) 

Rating: 3/5

THE SECRET LIFE OF FRANCE - Lucy Wadham
Although politically and historically jargon-rich at times (although perhaps, from Wadham's analysis, a typical trait of the British being that we don't take in enough of our politics or history in order to follow such things), this book offers a wonderful insight into the differences between British and French culture. Wadham, being an Englishwoman in Paris, gives an objective and, at times, hilarious analysis of Paris and her bourgeoisie and the sometimes pretentiousness of French society. 

Rating: 4/5.
(Recommended by Third Year Abroad)

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What surprises me the most is that I managed to choose three books which focussed on the culture of the capital cities, London and Paris. Apart from Wadham's epilogue, I have so far not read much in the way of rural and agricultural France compared with areas in the UK other than London and the South. Personally, I'd much rather hear about the people who make up the rest of France and who try to uphold regional identities, but I presume that's because I come from a region in England with a very strong regional identity; the North East.

If anybody has any recommendations for me as to what I should read next, that would be much appreciated. I've struggled to find books of the same calibre about Spain/Britain, so any suggestions you have in that area would be excellent.

à bientôt!//¡hasta luego!
Carey xo


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