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The Secret Life of France Paperback – 1 Jul 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (1 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057123612X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571236121
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 149,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lucy Wadham is a London-born novelist who has lived in France all her adult life and raised four children there. She started writing fiction as a teenager, mostly poems and short stories with a darkish bent. While reading English at Oxford University she, like many aspiring female writers, developed a fixation with Virginia Woolf and begun mooning about in long cardigans and sensible shoes. She had her first child at 21 and was pregnant with her second when she sat her final exams in 1987, after which she moved to France to be with her French husband.

Her first novel, 'Lost', published by Faber and Faber in 2000, was a thriller about a woman whose son is kidnapped while they are on holiday in Corsica. Highly acclaimed for its pace and passion, 'Lost' was nominated for the Golden Dagger crime fiction award and was twice optioned for the screen .

'Castro's Dream', another thriller, was inspired by her work as a freelance journalist investigating the Basque separatist movement, ETA. It tells the story of the love and rivalry between Astrid and Lola, two sisters whose involvement with the terrorist organisation catches up with them after twenty years when their friend and former lover, Mikel, is released from prison.

'Greater Love' "...Twins Aisha and Jose are brought up in Coelhoso, a remote hill-top village only just out of the Middle Ages. The product of a neglected childhood - their mother was raped - Jose never learns to speak, while Aisha, age 20, escapes to Paris. Jose eventually joins his sister, inauspiciously arriving in the city on September 11 2001. The two siblings carve out new lives: Aisha learning about sex and philosophy under the guidance of a Left Bank intellectual; Jose finding his voice with the help of a charismatic Muslim sheikh. At the heart of the ambitious literary saga lies Aisha's quest to understand her brother, and her own part in his final, catastrophic breakdown. Moving from Portugal to Paris, Morocco to California, Wadham manages to endow each chapter of Aisha's life - any section of which might have made a novel in itself - with a stark authenticity." (The Independent).

Her latest book and first work of non-fiction, 'The Secret Life of France', is a memoir of her marriage to a Frenchman and her discovery of a culture that has, over the past 20 years, baffled, appalled, charmed and conquered her.

She is currently working on a novel loosely based on her experience of growing up in a family of five powerful women.

Product Description

Review

A delightful and illuminating book about France ... Wadham writes well, with effortless wit and keen intelligence, and knows when to draw from Napoleon's private correspondence, or the plays of Victor Hugo, in order to support some well-turned observation or other. The Secret Life of France ought to be this summer's Franco-British success. -- New Statesman

At last - a book about living in France that tells it like it is. Lucy Wadham has spent 20 years living in France and writes brilliantly about the experience. Required reading for anyone visiting France this summer, and everyone else besides.
-- Independent ~ 50 Best Summer Reads

Pithy, larded with anecdote and all perfectly true. -- Sunday Times

This beautifully clever and intellectually challenging book decodes the French way of life, as opposed to the British way of doing things, and reveals much to like about being us - and being them. -- Good Housekeeping

Wadham's elegant, measured and funny book ... penetrating insight and wonderful anecdote and dry observation .. She offers her considerable insights and her anecdotes and, like all critical Francophiles, continues to scratch her head in love and wonder. -- Independent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

This beautifully clever and intellectually challenging book decodes the French way of life, as opposed to the British way of doing things, and reveals much to like about being us - and being them. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By EllyBlue TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Like many others I'm sure, I have a secret fantasy about moving to France based on my many holidays to that country over the years. Having read this book though, I'm not so sure that this is a very good idea! Starting with her courtship and marriage to a Frenchman in the 1980s, through to the present, divorced, but still living in France, Lucy Wadham explains some of the differences between our "Anglo-Saxon Culture" and the French way of looking at the world. The areas are wide-ranging, from sexual manners, the importance of appearance, attitudes to breast-feeding, the French school system, French healthcare, social system, politics, foreign policy, and more.
It's a more serious book than I was perhaps expecting, certainly with some humour, but also with a lot detailed discussion of history, politics and France's relationship with her ethnic minorities, and her response to terrorism. Certainly, it will give you some insight into the correct tone to adopt towards your boulanger, but it also deals with other more weighty issues than this.
If I have a criticism it is perhaps that this book doesn't quite catch the diversity of France, based very much on what Wadham experienced in her own circle. For example, she does touch on French rural life, but a more in-depth analysis of the differences between the city-dwellers and the proudly titled French "peasants" is beyond the scope of this book, perhaps understandably, but it is a shame nonetheless.
Definitely worth reading if you love France but find the French rather enigmatic as some light will be shed on the mysterious ways of our Gallic neighbour!
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
That was the question that faced Lucy Lemoine (nee Wadham unless that is just a nom de guerre) when she ended her 20-year marriage to a Frenchman. She had to decide whether it was nobler in the mind to suffer the talk and habits of outrageous Frenchmen or to pull up stumps and cross the sea to England, and maybe find that better. She had actually once gone along to apply for French citizenship, and had been so appalled by the rudeness of the civil servant she encountered that she changed her mind on the spot. However when it came to the later decision she elected to stay in France after all, although significantly not in Paris.

Myself, I have been to France ten or eleven times, including my honeymoon in Corsica, but reading this book makes me think I probably know the place better from television and maybe a few films than from my stays there. Nothing Lucy Wadham says about France or the French surprises me, and although my knowledge of it all seems somehow second-hand I think I can understand to a fair extent what she is talking about. She starts her narration where she ought to start it as a young woman, with the relations between the sexes, partly but not mainly her own experiences. I am not going to précis her findings: I shall say only that she has a very interesting slant not only on the work/life balance of the French but on the balance between their commitment to marriage, their adherence or otherwise to Catholic moral teaching, and their attitude to sexual relations generally. A lot of the interest of this part of the book may be unintentional, by giving us insights into her own mental and emotional processes. She is obviously very sharp and analytical, for instance, but if the word `love' occurs at all in this context I think I must have missed it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. F. Stevens HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 12 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I didn't think I was going to like this book. I am tired of reading about the exploits of the young and privileged with all their effortless social contacts. But I was wrong, there's more to this book than the usual whimsical account of the misunderstandings and faux pas of the innocent middle class English girl abroad, desperately trying to fit in and failing... but having a fabulous time dahling!

I changed my mind because Lucy is perceptive and painfully honest about her own short comings and lack of self-confidence, and also because she writes with self-deprecating humour.

She has gone one step further than the usual "My Life in the Midi" fare and has successfully enhanced her personal story with its close-quarter's scrutiny of French daily life by drawing on factual evidence from French social history. For example, she makes some serious points about the complicated social and political legacy handed down from the Second World War Collaboration of Vichy France.

Much is explained about the way the French operate, both on an individual and collective level. Factual information is carefully interwoven with humorous anecdotes; such as why you shouldn't be friendly with a French waiter, and what exactly is the practise of "yaourt" singing? I particularly enjoyed her description of meeting "Sarko the Sex dwarf."

Do you want to find out who the French despise more than the English, and why the French are the "biggest consumers of psychotropic drugs in the world?" Then read on, enjoy it and be informed!

Next time I go to Paris I will take her advice, and remember to "show no weakness", even if my French isn't up to their exacting standards.
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