"I'll Never Be French"

I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do) by Mark Greenside

Mark Greenside was living with his girlfriend in New York when out of the blue she said to him: "Honey, let's go to France". He had been in France years earlier and it had not been a good experience, and he didn't speak French, so he wasn't thrilled with the idea. But she had answers for all his arguments and eventually she wore him down. They went to France - Brittany - for the summer. This is the story of how he fell in love with the country, bought a house and became a permanent part-time resident.

The title is what attracted me. He sounds so desperate to fit in. The fact that it's about France didn't hurt either, since I can't seem to turn down anything in writing that is set there or even mentions it a few times. There's a quote on the cover from the Detroit Free Press suggesting we all "run, do not walk, to the nearest copy of I'll Never Be French." They call it a  "funny, funny book". I'm less enthusiastic. I think one "funny" is enough and walking is fine.

It's possible I've read too many of these stories and they just don't impress me that much anymore. I don't want that to be true but I don't know how else to explain my lack of excitement about this one. The writing is decent, the stories are interesting enough, his honesty about the helplessness he felt is (at least one) funny and the setting is perfect. I can't figure out why I was disappointed.

Greenside's experience was a little different than some I've read where trying to buy a house or a car turns into a nightmare. In this case people seemed to bend over backwards to help him and make it easy. What he did find difficult were the small things, like finding a locker at an airport or figuring out how to stand in line at a bakery. In his words: "It's extraordinary, really, the number of ways France finds to make daily life a difficulty."

Well I don't care. Great book or not, difficult daily life or not, I still want to go to France. As for the book, I'd give it maybe a 5 or 6, depending on my mood, out of 10. As Randy Jackson likes to say...it was just ok for me.


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