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Monsieur Mediocre: One American Learns the High Art of Being Everyday French

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A hilarious, candid account of what life in France is actually like, from a writer for Vanity Fair and GQ Americans love to love Paris. We buy books about how the French parent, why French women don't get fat, and how to be Parisian wherever you are. While our work hours increase every year, we think longingly of the six weeks of vacation the French enjoy, imagining them at A hilarious, candid account of what life in France is actually like, from a writer for Vanity Fair and GQ Americans love to love Paris. We buy books about how the French parent, why French women don't get fat, and how to be Parisian wherever you are. While our work hours increase every year, we think longingly of the six weeks of vacation the French enjoy, imagining them at the seaside in stripes with plates of fruits de mer. John von Sothen fell in love with Paris through the stories his mother told of her year spent there as a student. And then, after falling for and marrying a French waitress he met in New York, von Sothen moved to Paris. But fifteen years in, he's finally ready to admit his mother's Paris is mostly a fantasy. In this hilarious and delightful collection of essays, von Sothen walks us through real life in Paris--not only myth-busting our Parisian daydreams but also revealing the inimitable and too often invisible pleasures of family life abroad. Relentlessly funny and full of incisive observations, Monsieur Mediocre is ultimately a love letter to France--to its absurdities, its history, its ideals--but it's a very French love letter: frank, smoky, unsentimental. It is a clear-eyed ode to a beautiful, complex, contradictory country from someone who both eagerly and grudgingly calls it home.


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A hilarious, candid account of what life in France is actually like, from a writer for Vanity Fair and GQ Americans love to love Paris. We buy books about how the French parent, why French women don't get fat, and how to be Parisian wherever you are. While our work hours increase every year, we think longingly of the six weeks of vacation the French enjoy, imagining them at A hilarious, candid account of what life in France is actually like, from a writer for Vanity Fair and GQ Americans love to love Paris. We buy books about how the French parent, why French women don't get fat, and how to be Parisian wherever you are. While our work hours increase every year, we think longingly of the six weeks of vacation the French enjoy, imagining them at the seaside in stripes with plates of fruits de mer. John von Sothen fell in love with Paris through the stories his mother told of her year spent there as a student. And then, after falling for and marrying a French waitress he met in New York, von Sothen moved to Paris. But fifteen years in, he's finally ready to admit his mother's Paris is mostly a fantasy. In this hilarious and delightful collection of essays, von Sothen walks us through real life in Paris--not only myth-busting our Parisian daydreams but also revealing the inimitable and too often invisible pleasures of family life abroad. Relentlessly funny and full of incisive observations, Monsieur Mediocre is ultimately a love letter to France--to its absurdities, its history, its ideals--but it's a very French love letter: frank, smoky, unsentimental. It is a clear-eyed ode to a beautiful, complex, contradictory country from someone who both eagerly and grudgingly calls it home.

30 review for Monsieur Mediocre: One American Learns the High Art of Being Everyday French

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    If you took a poll in the USA, I would guess Paris would likely make the top 10 list for dream vacation destinations. Paris resident John Von Sothen remembers what it was like to wonder about, experience for the first time, and now be completely immersed in what was once literally foreign to him. He somewhat humorously gathers stereotypes and assumptions which he both breaks and confirms by sharing his personal observations/experiences. It does feel at times quite opinionated, borderline judgmen If you took a poll in the USA, I would guess Paris would likely make the top 10 list for dream vacation destinations. Paris resident John Von Sothen remembers what it was like to wonder about, experience for the first time, and now be completely immersed in what was once literally foreign to him. He somewhat humorously gathers stereotypes and assumptions which he both breaks and confirms by sharing his personal observations/experiences. It does feel at times quite opinionated, borderline judgmental, if I'm being honest but if I came across a similar book floating around about Florida's heavy populated tourist destinations, I'd probably laugh my @ss off. It's all about what you know. I'm glad he found a place to call home. Thank you to Viking Books and Goodreads Giveaways for the opportunity to win an early copy of Monsieur Mediocre: One American Learns the High Art of Being Everyday French.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Books I'm Not Reading

    I did review this book on my Booktube channel, but I'll say a few things about it here. As someone who reads a fair number of books about France and Paris, this one does not romanticize it, but isn't afraid to talk about the benefits of living there. The author reminds me very much of Nick Hornby - a slightly self-deprecating sense of humor. He also talks about how he doesn't fit in, but that sometimes people love him for that. I found the book poignant at times, but I also laughed at least twic I did review this book on my Booktube channel, but I'll say a few things about it here. As someone who reads a fair number of books about France and Paris, this one does not romanticize it, but isn't afraid to talk about the benefits of living there. The author reminds me very much of Nick Hornby - a slightly self-deprecating sense of humor. He also talks about how he doesn't fit in, but that sometimes people love him for that. I found the book poignant at times, but I also laughed at least twice so hard I was crying and could not speak. If you like books about Paris/France and you like Nick Hornby, this is definitely the book for you!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    Life is too short to read poor books. I quit 2/3 of the way through and only made it that far because I won the Goodreads giveaway. This author is the “guest who loves to hear himself talk and goes on way too long.” I was expecting some humor like most “man in a new country” books, but this was an endless essay on “how hard French is y’all, and I learned it all wrong.” Each chapter is about the endless parties and social events he goes to and how the French make everything an ordeal. One quote Life is too short to read poor books. I quit 2/3 of the way through and only made it that far because I won the Goodreads giveaway. This author is the “guest who loves to hear himself talk and goes on way too long.” I was expecting some humor like most “man in a new country” books, but this was an endless essay on “how hard French is y’all, and I learned it all wrong.” Each chapter is about the endless parties and social events he goes to and how the French make everything an ordeal. One quote from the book is “There’s a special embarrassment one feels when you know people are reading what you wrote and finding it pompous.” This is that book. The chapter on vacations was the high point since it put into words my worst vacation nightmare. I’ve always wanted to visit Paris but this book made it sound beyond boring. Giving it a 1.5. Thank you to Viking and Goodreads for the giveaway.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Grigsby

    This is a wonderful, in depth look at what it is like to leave the United States and take up permanent residence in a European country. The author discusses language barriers, museums, child care, health care, parties, etc. in a very Bill Bryson fashion. I laughed a lot reading this book, and cried as well. The life of an expatriate is not an easy one, but very, very rich.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    The title is an apt description of the book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elijah

    This has interesting information about life in Paris, but this guy’s a low-grade asshole and not very funny.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Meagan Houle

    I freely admit I knew nothing of modern French culture when I chose "Monsieur Mediocre," nor had I ever done much thinking on the subject at all. The title was impossible to pass up, though, and I immediately fell head over heels in love with John's self-deprecating style. I'm not sure that the details will stick with me. Ask me in a year what this book talked about, and I probably won't be able to discuss France's dizzying political landscape, or the peculiarities of its education system. What I freely admit I knew nothing of modern French culture when I chose "Monsieur Mediocre," nor had I ever done much thinking on the subject at all. The title was impossible to pass up, though, and I immediately fell head over heels in love with John's self-deprecating style. I'm not sure that the details will stick with me. Ask me in a year what this book talked about, and I probably won't be able to discuss France's dizzying political landscape, or the peculiarities of its education system. What I'm sure to remember is how much fun I had following John on his adventures, and how much joy his narrative voice added to my day. So go on, even if you've never given France a single thought: go for it. You'll like it, I promise.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Thank you Mr. von Sothen for making me laugh so hard I cried ... I couldn't speak at times for laughing, but also showing us a certain poignancy about your life. If you like books about Paris, this is definitely worth your time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I ordered this book after hearing a positive review of it on a podcast during which panelists were recommending “summer reads.” The Francophile in me couldn’t resist, but I wish I would’ve. There were several points throughout the book where I thought about abandoning it, but the last straw was when I got to the chapter about just how hard it is to own a second home in the Normandy countryside. If you enjoy reading about privileged, self-absorbed Americans now living privileged lives in France, I ordered this book after hearing a positive review of it on a podcast during which panelists were recommending “summer reads.” The Francophile in me couldn’t resist, but I wish I would’ve. There were several points throughout the book where I thought about abandoning it, but the last straw was when I got to the chapter about just how hard it is to own a second home in the Normandy countryside. If you enjoy reading about privileged, self-absorbed Americans now living privileged lives in France, then perhaps you’ll enjoy this book more than I did.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Off with the Rose Colored Glasses! Monseiur Mediocre http://fangswandsandfairydust.com/201... I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader’s copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted. As the synopsis above says, American's love to love Paris; or the idea of Paris.  I would generalize that further to all of France, and to some extent all of Europe. I don't believe Americans have cornered the market on idealizing other places, it fuels h Off with the Rose Colored Glasses! Monseiur Mediocre http://fangswandsandfairydust.com/201... I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader’s copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted. As the synopsis above says, American's love to love Paris; or the idea of Paris.  I would generalize that further to all of France, and to some extent all of Europe. I don't believe Americans have cornered the market on idealizing other places, it fuels hopeful migration, and gets people traveling.  In Mr. von Southen's case his earliest idea of France was from his childhood his mother regaled him with stories from her time in France.  This led him to learn French and spend time abroad.  It gave him a first hand, but immature and institutional view of  what life in France was like. The opportunity to live in France came through his marriage and the decision to raise a family there.   I think he has a balanced view of France, and America.  And he relates it to us in a  self-effacing manner that is often funny.  He talks about his writing, but not too much.  He talks about his parents, who had him older, and their activities and their decline.  He talks about raising his kids, the political climate of France, and of America. He tells funny stories about how one socializes in France; in particular how one vacations there.  He talks about the great things like the good medicine and family allowances.  His stories about his cultural mishaps are pretty amusing I have been to France twice and before going I entertained the same ideas about it:  French women do not get fat,  French children are always perfectly behaved, all French people are gourmets.  I had bad hotel rooms but some very good meals.  But I also saw heavy people and poorly behaved children.  France still holds wonder but not in the legendary aspects.  He does an excellent job reading his work —  in most cases a non-fiction author is the right narrator for the work — but von Sothen's work in voice-overs and on TV means he isn't afraid of the microphone. And now I know how to say "Anais," his wife's name, properly (Anna-iss). This is a good book for any body contemplating a trip to, or life in, France.  Von Sothen's writing and observations about France are not as funny as David Sedaris's, but Sedaris is the funniest man alive and no longer lives in France. Von Sothen has stuck it out, becoming a clear-sighted, not-so-much-a-stranger in a no-longer-so-strange-land and it resonated with my own travel experiences.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joey

    Our library provides free copies of BookPage, which is a great little advert magazine for finding new and upcoming books. I highly recommend it if you’re trying to find something new to shake up your queue. Knowledge of Monsiuer Mediocre came to me via that magazine, and after a few months of waiting for an interlibrary loan to arrive it finally came last week! I’m happy to say this book was worth the wait. Jancee Dunn writes in her blurb on this one, this book is “sharp, funny, and surprisingly Our library provides free copies of BookPage, which is a great little advert magazine for finding new and upcoming books. I highly recommend it if you’re trying to find something new to shake up your queue. Knowledge of Monsiuer Mediocre came to me via that magazine, and after a few months of waiting for an interlibrary loan to arrive it finally came last week! I’m happy to say this book was worth the wait. Jancee Dunn writes in her blurb on this one, this book is “sharp, funny, and surprisingly tender”. I agree. As the book’s subtitle explains, this is von Sothen’s account of what it’s like to be a silly American living in France. The book is both relatable and unrelatable, and I think that’s kind of the point. Von Sothen grew up in the D.C. area, the only child of an Emmy-winning father and an artist mother. His parents were older, quirky, and right-leaning. His Mom studied painting in Paris when she was young, and their family vacationed there when von Sothen was a boy. Because of those fond memories, he studied abroad in college and often dated French women while he lived in NYC. He married one of them, and they moved to Paris around 2002 together. It’s…not what he expected (aka not the Disney World version of Paris), but that’s worked out wonderfully for him and his family. The author is an amalgam of his parents – artistically inclined like his mother (a writer, though), and wacky like his goofy dad. This mix of personality suits the book well as he easily moves back and forth between describing French politics, the complexities of living in an immigrant-dense area of Paris, the silliness of country weddings, the depth of meaning of dinner parties, traffic, racist bread makers, the confusion of whether one is joining a book club or a sex cult, and more. This isn’t a sweet book, necessarily, but it is a funny one full of wit and humanity. Three sections in particular brought me to tears – one dealing with raising good kids in a dangerous world (compassion being “a better fuel for life than fear”, his wife says), drunken dinner parties as metaphors for fighting death, and taking care of parents. 4.5/5 stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    A better than average "American moves to France" account. Well-written, lively, avoids the usual clichés, and is quite entertaining. From Amazon: "A hilarious, candid account of what life in France is actually like, from a writer for Vanity Fair and GQ Americans love to love Paris. We buy books about how the French parent, why French women don't get fat, and how to be Parisian wherever you are. While our work hours increase every year, we think longingly of the six weeks of vacation the French en A better than average "American moves to France" account. Well-written, lively, avoids the usual clichés, and is quite entertaining. From Amazon: "A hilarious, candid account of what life in France is actually like, from a writer for Vanity Fair and GQ Americans love to love Paris. We buy books about how the French parent, why French women don't get fat, and how to be Parisian wherever you are. While our work hours increase every year, we think longingly of the six weeks of vacation the French enjoy, imagining them at the seaside in stripes with plates of fruits de mer. John von Sothen fell in love with Paris through the stories his mother told of her year spent there as a student. And then, after falling for and marrying a French waitress he met in New York, von Sothen moved to Paris. But fifteen years in, he's finally ready to admit his mother's Paris is mostly a fantasy. In this hilarious and delightful collection of essays, von Sothen walks us through real life in Paris--not only myth-busting our Parisian daydreams but also revealing the inimitable and too often invisible pleasures of family life abroad. Relentlessly funny and full of incisive observations, Monsieur Mediocre is ultimately a love letter to France--to its absurdities, its history, its ideals--but it's a very French love letter: frank, smoky, unsentimental. It is a clear-eyed ode to a beautiful, complex, contradictory country from someone who both eagerly and grudgingly calls it home."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I wanted to love this book. It had decent reviews and I spend a lot of time in the car listening to audio books. It seemed like a fun book for long commutes. I enjoyed the authors voice reading his book. He was easy to listen to and added context in the inflection of his voice. What I didn't like was the book itself. My French lessons ended many years ago and you almost needed to be fluent in French to understand the book. For an American author living in France, he pushed every bit of French vo I wanted to love this book. It had decent reviews and I spend a lot of time in the car listening to audio books. It seemed like a fun book for long commutes. I enjoyed the authors voice reading his book. He was easy to listen to and added context in the inflection of his voice. What I didn't like was the book itself. My French lessons ended many years ago and you almost needed to be fluent in French to understand the book. For an American author living in France, he pushed every bit of French vocabulary possible into this book. It was as if he was trying to ensure we knew he was an American living in France. I wish he had sprinkled the vocabulary throughout the narrative rather than ramming in down your throat. I felt so much was lost in the fact he had to explain words and phrases repeatedly. This could have been a humorous read (listen) but instead I was annoyed. If you're fluent in French I'm sure you won't want to read the book as many of the concepts were probably covered in your language lessons.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

    Before and after traveling to France for the first time this spring, I have devoured books written by ex-pats about their time in France (like Julia Child and David Lebovitz). Prior to my trip, I used these books to prep for interacting with the French; after my trip, I’ve read them out of a deep appreciation for the French culture and a desire to continue learning about it despite being stateside. When I saw the cover of Monsieur Mediocre, I knew I had to add it to my stack. This book was a deli Before and after traveling to France for the first time this spring, I have devoured books written by ex-pats about their time in France (like Julia Child and David Lebovitz). Prior to my trip, I used these books to prep for interacting with the French; after my trip, I’ve read them out of a deep appreciation for the French culture and a desire to continue learning about it despite being stateside. When I saw the cover of Monsieur Mediocre, I knew I had to add it to my stack. This book was a delight, and had me snorting on multiple occasions. I loved that this book took off the rose colored glasses and portrayed Paris and the French in a different light: beautiful, of course, but also frustrating, complicated, and at times nonsensical. It only made me love Paris more. The beauty of Monsieur Mediocre is that it makes you feel like you’ve discovered the “real” France, and it is one I will return to when I feel like stepping back into Paris.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jules

    I found this book from my local library’s featured audiobook newsletter. The title of this book grabbed me, and the synopsis was equally intriguing. I completely agree with the author’s take that American’s have a very romanticized view of life in Paris and France. I thoroughly enjoyed his discussion of his life in Paris as a new expatriate. Stereotypes are confirmed or busted in this slightly humorous foray into daily life in France. The American author discusses the cultural differences he exp I found this book from my local library’s featured audiobook newsletter. The title of this book grabbed me, and the synopsis was equally intriguing. I completely agree with the author’s take that American’s have a very romanticized view of life in Paris and France. I thoroughly enjoyed his discussion of his life in Paris as a new expatriate. Stereotypes are confirmed or busted in this slightly humorous foray into daily life in France. The American author discusses the cultural differences he experiences once he moves to France to marry his pregnant French girlfriend. Sometimes though, the observations become judgmental and less funny. Having recently traveled to France, I felt that many of his observations of how Paris has changed were spot on. Monsieur Mediocre is entertaining and probably most appealing to Francophiles. For more reading recommendations, visit Book Junkie Reviews at www.abookjunkiereviews.wordpress.com

  16. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    John von Sothen sets out to disabuse assumptions about Paris and let you know what it's "really" like--at least for upper middle class people with kids, flexible jobs and lots of connections. The book is a series of essays about his 15 years as an American ex-pat in Paris, a status brought on by falling in love with a French waitress in New York. Some of it's quite interesting and funny--I especially liked the essay on language, a version of which I had read in the Wall Street Journal, which pro John von Sothen sets out to disabuse assumptions about Paris and let you know what it's "really" like--at least for upper middle class people with kids, flexible jobs and lots of connections. The book is a series of essays about his 15 years as an American ex-pat in Paris, a status brought on by falling in love with a French waitress in New York. Some of it's quite interesting and funny--I especially liked the essay on language, a version of which I had read in the Wall Street Journal, which prompted me to get this book from the library. The one about weddings was also good, but but here's the big however: No matter how self-deprecating von Sothen tries to make this book, he comes off as a snob with aristocratic inlaws, a country house and membership in a pony club where his daughter takes riding lessons.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eugene LeCouteur

    The two best chapters in the book are the first and last both of which are about his parents. The first chapter is how as a child he fell in love with Paris through his mother's reminiscences of being there as a young woman. The final chapter is about the deaths of his parents and his nostalgia for the home he left to become an expat in Paris. The in between chapters are about his life in Paris. The writing is mediocre. It needed a better editor to correct errors and get his writing about freshm The two best chapters in the book are the first and last both of which are about his parents. The first chapter is how as a child he fell in love with Paris through his mother's reminiscences of being there as a young woman. The final chapter is about the deaths of his parents and his nostalgia for the home he left to become an expat in Paris. The in between chapters are about his life in Paris. The writing is mediocre. It needed a better editor to correct errors and get his writing about freshman level. The stories are meant to be funny but I seldom laughed or even chuckled. Some of his observations are interesting, but this is not A Year in Provence, Under the Tuscan Sun or any of that genre. It is more snarky, profane, less-romanticized, and less well written. Read the first and last essay and skip the rest.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    The author had an uncanny knack for seesawing between chapters from funny, to annoying, to snobbish, then back to caring, self-deprecating, and then to a strange combination of annoying and kind all at the same time. The chapter titled, "The Aristocrats," almost had me close the book for good. I enjoy reading about long dead aristocrats, yet somehow reading about a living man recounting how aristocratic his wife's family is, and it turn, how aristocratic his American family also is, just seemed The author had an uncanny knack for seesawing between chapters from funny, to annoying, to snobbish, then back to caring, self-deprecating, and then to a strange combination of annoying and kind all at the same time. The chapter titled, "The Aristocrats," almost had me close the book for good. I enjoy reading about long dead aristocrats, yet somehow reading about a living man recounting how aristocratic his wife's family is, and it turn, how aristocratic his American family also is, just seemed to rub the wrong way. But I persevered and realized his style takes some getting used to. And the point of reading this wasn't to become friends with the author, but to understand an expat's views about living in Paris. In hindsight, there was a lot to learn that was rather interesting. After all, this was his story to tell and I'm glad I stuck around to the end.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Katharine

    Monsieur Mediocre is a very difficult book to review because parts of it are much better/more entertaining than others. The book is set up, not as a standard-timeline of an ex-pat American's adjustment to living in Paris with his French wife and their eventual kids. Instead, each chapter of the book focuses on a different aspect of French society: school, food, vacations, work, response to the US elections, etc. As someone who lived in Paris for a year, I was very curious to see how a long-term Monsieur Mediocre is a very difficult book to review because parts of it are much better/more entertaining than others. The book is set up, not as a standard-timeline of an ex-pat American's adjustment to living in Paris with his French wife and their eventual kids. Instead, each chapter of the book focuses on a different aspect of French society: school, food, vacations, work, response to the US elections, etc. As someone who lived in Paris for a year, I was very curious to see how a long-term life there might appear. I very much enjoyed some of the topics and felt the author was trying way too hard in others. Giving it a 3.75 overall, with a range of about 2.5 - 4, depending on which page you are on at the time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A wonderful, personal, funny and touching....memoire? Sociopolitical critique? Whimsical travel lit? It's hard to classify this eminently readable and enjoyable volume. John (I've known him for 30 years, I get to call him John) has always been a keen observer and deft wordsmith, both in conversation and in short form, but it turns out he's quite the full-length scribe, as well. Of course the final chapter was the real kicker - coup de grâce, if you will. It got me right in the kishkes, as the say A wonderful, personal, funny and touching....memoire? Sociopolitical critique? Whimsical travel lit? It's hard to classify this eminently readable and enjoyable volume. John (I've known him for 30 years, I get to call him John) has always been a keen observer and deft wordsmith, both in conversation and in short form, but it turns out he's quite the full-length scribe, as well. Of course the final chapter was the real kicker - coup de grâce, if you will. It got me right in the kishkes, as the saying goes, and reminded me just how much he and I have in common. Let's just say that people with older parents often have similar stories. Bravo, mon vieux!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kim Bender

    Loved these witty essays about life as an American man confronting his fantasy France, propelled by a shotgun wedding to a French actress and the reality of raising kids in a foreign land. Incisive, funny as hell. Enjoyed every minute. The author's simultaneous ability to make fun of all things French while also showing great affection for the culture, peppered by his sharp, self-effacing humor, opens a remarkably well-rounded portal into the ex-pat experience. I was also very touched by his ten Loved these witty essays about life as an American man confronting his fantasy France, propelled by a shotgun wedding to a French actress and the reality of raising kids in a foreign land. Incisive, funny as hell. Enjoyed every minute. The author's simultaneous ability to make fun of all things French while also showing great affection for the culture, peppered by his sharp, self-effacing humor, opens a remarkably well-rounded portal into the ex-pat experience. I was also very touched by his tender reflections on his quirky, older parents. Highly recommend, especially to anyone who toiled away in French class, spent a painful summer or a semester abroad, or is considering ditching America.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Jo

    Zipped through this in just a couple days. Wow! What a wonderful account comparing American and French lifestyles, comparing and contrasting with candid honesty and humor the pitfalls and pretentions of both. While the takeaway is it’s not as romantic as it seems, this book still divulges major love for a place that wasn’t home, but has become home. For anyone who loves a travel memoir, this fits the bill. Learning about French culture and politics through the lens of a former francophile turned Zipped through this in just a couple days. Wow! What a wonderful account comparing American and French lifestyles, comparing and contrasting with candid honesty and humor the pitfalls and pretentions of both. While the takeaway is it’s not as romantic as it seems, this book still divulges major love for a place that wasn’t home, but has become home. For anyone who loves a travel memoir, this fits the bill. Learning about French culture and politics through the lens of a former francophile turned ex-pat realist offers a witty and astute window into what it means to make life with feet on the shores of two big personality countries.

  23. 4 out of 5

    R Fontaine

    The book reasonably held my attention although I quickly got to the point of not caring at all for Van Southan. I completely checked out as he dragged out the tiring political diatribe when he became so mortified that Trump was elected President that he couldn’t go to the various social functions due to embarrassment, I guess, for all the American people foolish enough to elect such a person to lead our country. Get over yourself !

  24. 4 out of 5

    J

    This memoir is the perfect antidote to “Aren’t the French Just Perfect” books that proliferate in book stores. They don’t get fat. They have perfect children. They are stylish always. Turns out, the French are just people - flawed, funny, and human. The author is self-aware and self-deprecating. If you liked this, I recommend Olivia de Haviland’s short collection of essays on being an American expat in France.

  25. 5 out of 5

    William Jordan

    Amusing, ultimately touching story of an American man who marries a French woman and lives in Paris. I was put off initially by his dwelling on his upper-crust upbringing in the US, with its considerable distance from normal people. Similar level of society in Paris. But I eventually got over it and enjoyed the many anecdotes about interesting people and experiences in France.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    My favorite genre - ex-pats who tell the story of how they ended up in another country. I seem to be drawn to books based in France and Italy. This was a good tale, the author sounds like he is a real character! In a good way. He has a very wry and sarcastic sense of humor which I truly enjoyed. I was just sad the book ended!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This book wasn't quite what I expected. I'm not entirely sure what I thought I was getting into. There are parts that made me laugh out loud - particularly the road trip engine chicken. But other parts I thought could have used a bit of streamlining/editing/focusing. The first couple of flashbacks to his life in the state took me out of the French world he was constructing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cherop

    A new book about an American ex-pat's life in Paris. I read a lot of these types of books. Many of them are quite funny and tell of their exasperation of trying to build a new life in a new country with a different culture. This book was a bit of that but was also deeper than what I usually read. I found the last chapters dealing with the demise of his parents very poignant and raw.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Insightful essays on modern-day France of the past 15 years. Hilarious, laugh out loud chapters. Not a fast read if you really want to enjoy his writing style and absorb all the nuances and language faux pas. A lot of fun to read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    In the beginning, it seemed line the author did not like France and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue reading. But, eventually a more positive, funny spin emerged and I enjoyed it. Learning a bit about France, even if only from one person’s point of view was interesting.

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