Monday, October 19, 2009
Carried Away by Travel Themed Books by Sandra Tice
I’ve never been to Brittany, France, but after studying French for three years in High School, I boast very little success in actually mastering the language. The autobiographical account by author Mark Greenside, “I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do)”, begged for me to re-visit my love affair with the French language and ponder a possible future trip to the northwest coast of France, which is exactly what a well-written travel book should do.
Through this highly entertaining account by aging humour writer Greenside, a native Californian teacher who allows himself to reluctantly be persuaded to spend a summer in France. Along with his girlfriend, Kathryn, in the place she describes as being “special, magical, enchanted,” you’ll be transported to the French countryside via this humorous and gentle book.
“She’s a poet”, laments Greenside, “Everything she says is exaggerated” and ultimately he says, “there’s no way out. I’m going to France.”
Sprinkled with his elementary level French phrases, Greenside relays his experiences of the countryside in a style reminiscent of Peter Mayle’s writings. Gradually, with a tender heart towards the Britons, he shares his foibles and awkwardness as he bumbles his way from one misadventure to another. The most endearing quality of the book is that Greenside allows himself to accept his child-like limitations, and the locals take it upon themselves to patiently lead him into new understanding, literally by taking him by the hand.
There is one episode where Greenside feels secure enough to venture into the local market to shop by himself, with hilarious confusion.
“The following week I go to the market alone. I’ve managed to purchase fresh pasta from the butter, egg, and cheese lady by pointing to it, holding up two fingers, and saying “pour deux”. Emboldened, I search for a bay leaf for the sauce. I know what bay leaves look like, and how they smell, so I approach the spice, herb, and condiment lady with confidence. “Bonjour”, I say. “Bonjour” she says, and we’re off…..”.
Greenside shares anecdotes of daily village life, with sweet descriptions of all manner of shopkeepers, bankers, construction workers, and finally, good lifelong friends.
As I don’t want to give away any of this delightful read, I invite you to visit Greenside’s France through his new book and find out just what happens when two limited language vocabularies collide, and I can say with all ‘certainement”, you will be as entranced as I was with Greenside’s account.
“I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do)” by Mark Greenside, recommended read, thumbs up, recommended for book club selections.