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A Year In The Merde Paperback – 1 Apr 2005

162 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (1 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552772968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552772969
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Clarke lives in Paris, where he divides his time between writing and not writing. His first novel, A Year in the Merde, originally became a word-of-mouth hit in 2004, and is now published all over the world. Since then he has published three more bestselling Merde novels, as well as Talk to the Snail, an indispensable guide to understanding the French. Research for Stephen's novels has taken him all over France and America. For 1000 Years of Annoying the French, he has also been breathing the chill air of ruined castles and deserted battlefields, leafing through dusty chronicles, brushing up the medieval French he studied at university and generally losing himself in the mists of history. He has now returned to present-day Paris, and is doing his best to live the entente cordiale. For more information about Stephen Clarke and his books, visit his website:

Product Description


"Edgier than Bryson, hits harder than Mayle" (The Times)

"Must have comedy-of-errors diary about being a Brit abroad" (Daily Mirror)

"This is the season's word-of-mouth must-have book for Francophiles and Francophobes alike... This comedy of errors has almost certainly done more for the Entente Cordiale than any of our politicians" (Daily Mail)

Book Description

Self-published in France, and a subsequent bestseller, the hilarious story of a year in the life of a young Englishman abroad.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Shouna Falconer on 17 May 2011
Format: Paperback
This book has been constantly compared with the works of Bill Bryson and Peter Mayle, the latter being the author of "A Year in Provence". I haven't read either of these, but I have read "Driving Over Lemons" and I would place this "Merde" book ahead of it.

However such comparisons aren't really relevant since this book is very much a work of fiction. To read it is to meet Paul West, an arrogant prat with few redeeming features, a protagonist who, when it comes down to it, is just plain dull.

The book's main problem is that while it is very funny in places, the author only seems to have one kind of humour at his disposal and it wears thin after a while. But for the reader who can look beyond this, a reasonably entertaining read awaits. Paul's journey from one catastrophe to the next as he tries to avoid both the excrement on the pavements of Paris as well as its metaphorical equivalent is strangely compelling. The phonetic renderings of Parisians attempts to pronounce English words are particularly clever. After a while it's easy to slip into it and join the main character in a race to work it out. It's not a book to be taken too seriously.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nicola F (Nic) TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
Unlike a lot of other readers here, I didn't have any preconceptions when I picked up this book, which may be why I actually thought it was an ok read. Just `ok' however- it does have its flaws (in abundance, actually), but overall it held my attention and was a fairly decent (somewhat autobiographical) yarn. Don't expect too much and you'll probably enjoy it too, but if you're thinking this is going to be like one of Mayle's or Bryson's books then you're sadly mistaken, because travel writing this most definitely ain't.

The book follows the ups and downs of an Englishman (Paul West) who moves to Paris to try and launch a chain of English tea shops at a time when the French are still aghast at the British BSE crisis and Blair and Chirac are at each others throats over the impending war in Iraq. The book is laced with over the top French stereotypes of tube strikes, waiter strikes and pharmacist strikes, not to mention pongy cheeses and Parisians shrugging a lot (seriously: it happens every single chapter!).

Granted, there are *some* laugh-out-loud moments during the book; particularly in the beginning when Paul `Vest' is trying to decipher his French-speaking colleague's poor attempts at English, and again when he's trying to convince them to try English `cuisine'. A lot if the time the French don't know what to make of him and it is genuinely funny- albeit a bit arrogant to presume that everyone in a foreign country should know English. The tone of the book does come across as a bit smug in places unfortunately. However, part way through the book suddenly descends into sex, sex and more sex and it looses the plot somewhat which is a shame and the focus on the French and their customs and culture is put on the back burner.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Y. Ker on 16 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback
I read this book whilst meeting up with some friends in Paris. It was okay, well, it was funny I guess. But after the initial "oh yes, that's true", and "oh look, I've been there," I realised that perhaps the narrator isn't as funny as he seems to think that he is, as he then proceeds to annoy me ever so slightly in his very set, stubborn and boring ways. I enjoyed this book like one would enjoy a light-hearted book. It was easy, nothing remarkable at all, and does not require much thought. It wasn't so much the stereotyping that annoys me since all travel writing involves some of that. Bill Bryson, who I love, when writing about his stay in Copenhagan, writes, "the Danes" many times. The generalisation cannot be helped as it is not easy to get into the culture and get to know many people and get a sense of the diversity when one is on a short stay. But the narrator in this book is not on a short stay. He is suppose to be working in Paris for one year.

No wonder he has such a hard time. He seems to point-blank refuse to try and improve his language and in so doing help himself to get around better. He is very often arrogant, smug and forming opinions of that of someone so narrow-minded that he really shouldn't be travelling and expecting to enjoy the experience, if he is so set in his ways and refuses to adapt in even the slightest degree. I know that Paris can be chaotic and what he experiences, especially strikes, are very true to life. But he seems to be the kind of travellers with such a mentality as to never doing another country justice even if he does not encounter as many problems as he has.

I enjoyed this book as much as one would an airport fiction. It is on its way to the charity shop now that I am done with it, hopefully the next person would get more of a laugh out of it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By SAP VINE VOICE on 5 May 2005
Format: Paperback
Amusing in parts -- it certainly raised a smile in each chapter -- this book may be, but for my liking it was a little hit-and-miss. The chapters are broken up into sections of a few sides each, which gives the book a bit of a staccato feel -- like a series of anecdotes and amusing observations. Clarke doesn't have the storytelling abilities or buffoonery of Bryson -- I know, give him time, this is his first book -- or the dry wit and cynicism of Tim Moore, but he certainly has a style all of his own.

Despite the laughs at the expense of the French this is an affectionate look at France and the French (or Paris and the Parisians) from the eyes of an Englishman who, on returning to Blighty, realises just how much it has changed him. This book is really worth more than three stars, but not quite four.
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