A Year in the Merde
I bought this book many months ago and started to read it. Then I kind of forgot about it and only recently picked it up again a few days ago. Once I got into it, I couldn't put it down! It was so hilarious. Anybody with a sense of humour could understand and like this book but it is far more fun and rewarding to read if you understand 1) the French culture and 2) the French language.
There are so many word plays and so many instances where French words are inserted into otherwise English sentences, with no explanation or translation so if you didn't know French I think the book would be less funny.
It is obvious the author, Stephen Clarke, has lived in France for some time to make all these observations and in that regard I found some of the observations in the book a bit too deep for someone ("Paul West") who had only lived there for 9 months total.
One of my French friends actually told me he read one of Stephen Clarke's books (not this first one though) and found it funny and I thought to myself, if a French person finds it funny then surely it must be good!
I get the feeling that at least 80% of the story is based upon his own life and the other stuff is fabricated or embellished. It basically takes the piss out of everything French but not in a nasty way, just in an interesting and fun(ny) way. It's nothing like any of the other books about France I have read and it's just a hilarious feel-good read when you are feeling crap (like I am/was).
When I found videos of Stephen Clark on YouTube (below) I was a bit shocked that he appeared so old, because the main character in his books, Paul West, is only 27. Stephen also appears to be quite softly spoken and humble, which is not what Paul West is like! Ha! In some ways this book reminded me of A town like Paris by Bryce Corbett because it was about a man around the same age, whose main goal in Paris (it seems) is to find beautiful girls to 'shag'. There were so many sexual jokes and innuendo which didn't offend me, but I'm sure it might offend others.
I went to my local library and am currently reading one of the sequels Merde Happens.
Here's the list of books in chronological order:
1. A Year in the Merde (2005)
2. Merde Actually (UK title) / In the Merde for Love (US title) (2006)
3. Merde Happens (2008)
4. Dial M for Merde (2008).
Stephen Clark - A Year in the Merde interview
Stephen Clark - Merde Happens and Talk to the snail interview/promotion
If you haven't read it yet, please check it out! It'll have you in stitches!
PS the cover image I've posted here is the cover that I have, but the US version is different.
Edited to add French version of the same book "God Save La France" review.
Merde Happens book review