vendredi 31 juillet 2009

Books about life in Paris

When I was younger I used to go the library all the time.

Throughout primary (elementary) school, high school and university I would use the library often.

However, after that I hardly ever went, mostly because I didn't have such a huge need for them anymore and most of the books I wanted are never there (too new or rare) so I just bought any book that I wanted to read (or just look at, for reference).

Aujourd'hui, I went to my local library (bibliothèque) and borrowed:

* Buying a piece of Paris - Ellie Nielsen

* Words in a French life - Kristin Espinasse

* Extremely pale rose: A Very French Adventure - Jamie Ivey

* My French Connection - Sheryle Bagwell

* Culture Wise France - The Essential Guide to Culture, Customs and Business Etiquette.

I also have Teach Yourself French Starter Kit, which I borrowed a few weeks back.

I'm going to borrow from my sister:

* Almost French - Sarah Turnbull

and I bought:

* A Town like Paris - Bryce Corbett

* La Vie Parisienne - Janelle McCulloch

both of which, coincidentally, the library didn't have.

There seem to be a LOT of books written by Australians!

I also bought second hand:

* A year in Provence - Peter Mayle

* A year in the Merde - Stephen Clarke

My library has Stephen's follow-ups:

* In the Merde for Love / * Merde Happens

which I'll borrow/read when I've finished going through my exhaustive list!

I also put these on hold (currently on loan to somebody else):

* The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier - Thad Carhart

* The Elegance of the hedgehog - Muriel Barberry (fiction, set in Paris, translated from French)

I also want to read:

* Paris to the Moon - Adam Gopnik

* Snowfall in Paris: A Young Woman's Pursuit of Adventure - Josette Laurence

* Au Paris: True Tales of an American Nanny in Paris - Rachel Spencer

* Paris: The Collected Traveler: An Inspired Anthology and Travel Resource - Barrie Kerper

* An Englishman in Paris - Michael Sadler

* Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. - Jeremy Mercer

* A Corner in the Marais: Memoir of a Paris Neighborhood - Alex Karmel

Yes I am obsessed!

I went through every Paris/France memoir type book on Amazon to see if they would be interesting to me. Luckily, I'm a pretty fast reader. It takes me around 5-6 hours to read an average 250-300 page novel.

I generally only want to read books written in the last few years, by those not older than 35-40 years of age, and true stories/memoirs, not fiction. The Elegance of the hedgehog (L'élégance du hérisson)appealed to me because of the storyline and it was recently released as a feature film (there are extracts on YouTube or on their official site).

I have already finished reading 'Buying a piece of Paris'. I already saw it at Borders (bookstore), flipped through it and decided that I wouldn't be buying it because it wasn't 'good' enough. However, borrowing it was perfect as I could read it without paying a cent! ;)

It is a true story of Ellie Nielsen and her decision to buy an appartement in Paris with her husband. She, her husband Jack, and their 6 year old son Ellery go to Paris and embark on their adventure into the world of des agents immobilieres. The concept of the story is good but the writing lacked some oomph. There were some funny parts but it wasn't emotional and heartfelt enough for me. I got the sense that she was self-deprecating on purpose, as is the Australian trend (because noone wants to be a 'tall poppy'). I would've liked to hear more about her relationship with her husband, and background on themselves. Unless I missed it somewhere I don't think she even mentions her age, although she alludes to it by talking about what she was doing in certain years.

The most I got out of the book was hearing about streets/suburbs (some of which I looked up in Google street view!), reading all the French phrases/dialogues and translating them myself (before I got to the part where it's done for me in the book) and congratulating myself on figuring out all the complexities of French grammar and guessing the meaning of some words I haven't learnt yet. Par exemple, I guessed that malheureusement meant unfortunately! I knew that mal meant bad and anything ending in ment ends in ly in English.. I guessed it and couldn't believe I was correct.

At the beginning of the book, when she goes to the first l'agent immobilier, she mentions la fenêtre. The woman is confused and proceeds to tell her that the window is not la fenêtre but la vitrine, which refers to shop windows - which, to me, proves that there are many complexities of a language that you can't learn easily until you go and live in that country! That, and other 'missing' words in English is explained here on this site.

The other part that was interesting to read was the bit about the complexities of opening a bank account in France! haha. But apart from that the rest was pretty fluffy and bimboish. There is a gold seal on the front cover saying "Great Women's Weekly read". The Australian Women's Weekly is a monthly (yeah I know) magazine for Australian housewives so I guess the book sort of appeals to those sort of women (one of which I'm not).

I wouldn't recommend it, but I wouldn't not recommend it either. I would definitely say to go and borrow it from a library or a friend and don't bother buying it!

Books about life in Paris part II


Andi a dit…

I consider myself an aficionado of books on French culture, but you have some listed here that I was unaware of! So glad I found you and got the names of some of these books. If you make it to Paris you will love it! It is my favorite city in the whole world! Bonne chance!

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