1. Buying a piece of Paris : finding a key to the city of love / Ellie Nielsen.
2. Culture wise France : the essential guide to culture, customs & business etiquet / Joe Laredo.
3. Extremely pale rosé : a very French adventure / Jamie Ivey.
4. Words in a French life : lessons in love and language from the south of France / Kristin Espinasse.
5. My French connection : coming to grips with the world's most beautiful but baffling country / Sheryle Bagwell.
So I borrowed these books and here are my thoughts:
1. Pretty fluffy. I enjoyed it but definitely wouldn't recommend it, unless you fit the genre of the audience which is middle-class bored dreamy housewives.
2. Really interesting and useful. It's more of a guidebook and has coloured photos. Easy to read, you can just read the bits or chapters you are interested in. Talks a lot about French culture and society from a French person's point of view and Joe doesn't hold back either! He's not afraid to 'bash' his country, people, government, etc.
3. Haven't started reading this but I flipped through it and don't think I'll read it because I'm not interested in wine at all and I feel like the book won't interest me that much after I quickly scanned some chapters.
4. I started it but don't think I'll read it through. I don't find it that interesting and it's pretty much just a book version of her blog anyway. (French word a day)
5. I finished this the other day, over 2 days/sittings. I really enjoyed this book, written by yet another female Australian (Sydneysider) journalist. It was published in 2006 so fairly recent, although the author first went to France (Paris) in 1988. There, she met her future (Canadian) husband and then they moved back to France and went to live in Lyon. Now they are both around or over 50 and don't have any children and I got the feeling through them that you could have a very fulfilling and happy life without kids so long as you had enough money to keep you going and enough hobbies and interests to keep you happy and occupied and social.
The book was a bit similar to Sarah Turnbull's "Almost French" but not nearly as personal and not really that funny. Sheryle writes a lot about the historical, political, economical, and social aspects of France and the French people, which was quite interesting. She was obviously well informed, well read, and made some interesting observations. But I admit that for someone who is not an academic, towards the end I was getting a bit tired of reading about all the current affairs (of that time/year) etc etc and I wanted more meaty juicy details of her personal life there, and her relationship with her husband etc etc.
One of my favourite chapters is where she talks about her trying to learn French and failing and then when she started to get the hang of it they moved out of the country... She and her husband, Michael, criss-crossed over the world, came back to Sydney, then lived/worked in London for a few years as well. In 2006 they came back to Sydney.
There's also an interesting and slightly amusing chapter on dogs in France and how they are revered and noone but the tourists care about the amounts of dog excrement seen on the footpaths... I must admit, in my 2 days there last time I went to Paris I honestly don't remember seeing any at all. I think it's one of those things where if you keep thinking about it you just end up seeing it more often!
I enjoyed reading about Lyon and how it's the gastronomic capital of France... Incidentally, I met a family the other day on the train who come from Lyon. It's not often that I hear people speaking French in Sydney (although Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, Korean, Greek, Italian are common) and my ears pricked up when I heard them speaking. At first I thought I was imagining it but then I realised I was right. It wasn't until we were both about to get off (at the same stop, coincidentally!) that I started talking to the lady (mother). In hindsight she was polite and friendly but she did feel a bit cold and aloof and not all that warm... then after that I had read in the book that people in Lyon are seen like that, even by most people within France due to their location, and history and their rivalry with Paris (they are the second largest city in France), etc.
(You can read an extract here)