Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mark Greenside's "I'll Never Be French"

Knowing that I love everything French, a friend gave me a paperback copy of Mark Greenside's I'll Never Be French, published in 2008 by Free Press.  It is an easy read, mostly enjoyable.  It's Greenside's account of purchasing a home in Brittany.

The first two sentences of the book hooked me.  "It begins with a girl.  It always begins with a girl, and even though we don't make it through the summer -- through half the summer  -- she gets me there and changes my life."

I'm a sucker for these kind of memoirs, because I harbor a wish to live them.  Greenside introduces me to a part of France I know little about, and his descriptions of the quality of life enjoyed by the French ring true.

Greenside first goes to France knowing no French, and seems to progress very little with the language as he lives there.  This, and his refusal to dress neatly, seem to be the main reasons he will never be French.  It's his own choosing.

To illustrate his language deficiencies, Greenside records his attempts at conversations in French.  I don't understand why.  His faux-pas (French for "false step") with the language are lost on readers, like me, who speak no French.  These frequent passages become sections to skip.

The book ends abruptly.  The break between the story and the last two paragraphs reminds me of a bad finish to a term paper. 

Mark Greenside will never be French by his own choosing, but the stories of his part-time life in Brittany are interesting.  His book is not a literary great, but it is a quick, mostly fun, read for those who dream of living in Europe.

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