I have a confession. First time round I didn’t finish this book. It is quite long book at 446 pages (the hardback version) and, well, I’m someone who gives up easily. My excuse is that I was just too busy establishing my own new life in France, in the same region as this book is set, Limousin, but right on the northern limits.
But having come back to C’est La Folie, with time to enjoy it, I found it completely captivating. Michael Wright is a very readable writer, he has plenty of interesting things to say and he paints French life in a sensitive, honest way. Too many life-in-France books go for a cheap laugh by stereotyping the French characters and making them all look like idiots. Not this one. We see real people who yes, have habits that may seem strange to us coming from a different culture, and idiosyncrasies like the rest of us, but who as a whole can’t do enough to help out and be friendly. Like the author himself.
OK, he’s a bit soft about his animals (but so am I!), and OK, he’s hardly renovator of the year, but he throws himself into his new life with a vengeance and admirably so. For families who move abroad, the children usually provide the gateway into the new culture, since they drag you, the parents, to the school gates and teacher meetings and onto school committees. You soon get to know other people. For someone on his or her own it must be much more difficult. But Wright has his aeroplane, his tennis and his music – and his simple desire to get on with his fellow human beings. These bring him into the midst of French life. However, his loneliness is palpable at times, but he’s a tough guy and keeps himself going. You laugh and nearly cry as you turn the pages.
This is an excellent book – entertaining, interesting, revealing and enjoyable. I defy you not to like it. I can’t wait to read the follow-up, Je t’aime à la Folie …
Where to get it: Kindle version (hooray!) from www.amazon.com $13.52; www.amazon.fr has copies at €10.32, and offers marketplace deals from €2.03 (plus postage); www.amazon.co.uk has copies from 1p plus postage. Re Je t’aime à la Folie, paperback version comes out in June 2011.