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The Secret Life of France Audio CD – 1 Jun 2011

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks; Unabridged Audiobook edition (1 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140747698X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1407476988
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,654,917 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

Everything you wanted to know about France but were too afraid to ask... At eighteen Lucy Wadham abandoned England and fell into the arms of a Frenchman. Twenty-five years later, having married, had children, and divorced in France, Lucy is perfectly placed to explore the differences between our two countries. Here she examines every aspect of French life - from sex and adultery to money, happiness, race and politics - in this funny and engrossing account of our most intriguing neighbour.

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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 Sep 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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Charles Vasey TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 July 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What Lucy Wadham the racehorse trainer has written a book on France? But no, dear reader, this is Lucy Wadham who went to Oxford and worked for the BBC, living life, as it were, in the raw.

The blurb might have you believing that we're in for a Panorama report on the "The Sexual Life of Catherine M" and indeed there is quite a bit on the way a small part of the French (rich, educated, living in Paris) pursue sexual promiscuity without breaking up their marriages - the "jardin secret". This is not the same territory as Catherine M, but it is a contiguous land-mass and Lucy Wadham describes how it functions. These are the bobo bonobos as I call them, amusing in their cages but I would not like them in my house. But just as you are about to shake Lucy warmly by the throat for this generalised picture she's off on other topics and by the end of the book admits that not all the French are like that; indeed they are, like most nations, a lot of different threads.

Lucy discusses a wide number of points including what the French look for in politicians; they must be "hot rabbits" sexually, presumably explaining why Protestant politicians have not had a popular support since Henri of Navarre. Then on to why the French bureaucrats are such a pain; though in truth not turning up with the right document is likely to harden the kindest bureaucratic heart. There are excellent chapters on health services, education, and foreign policy. By the time you arrive at the end a much rounder picture begins to appear. One cannot but wonder if the publisher didn't send a post-it over saying "spice it up early on, love!"

If not as organised as Agnès-Catherine Poirier's French view of the English, Lucy Wadham's return volley has some valuable insights.
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