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4.3 out of 5 stars29
4.3 out of 5 stars
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2009
I read Michael Simkins first book about acting and I thoroughly enjoyed it and watched out for more. I thought that Fatty Batter was even better than his first and so when his latest book Detour de France was featured in the papers I got it straight away. I wasn't disappointed. Having holidayed in the South of France last year there were flashes of recognition throughout the book and his description of some of the events and places was tremendous. I particularly liked the description of his visit to Lourdes which held back on the humour and was the more powerful for that. This is a great book and if you are going to France, (or anywhere else this summer) it would be perfect holiday reading.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2009
Some books are so brilliant and cover so much ground you just don't want them to end. A terrific piece of work. This French adventure is laugh out loud funny as well as being movingly and poignantly told, as the author searches for home truths from abroad. Travel broadens the mind and as you journey through this beautifully crafted travelogue there is much to embrace; comic and tragic, funny and sad. You will even think better of the French! I loved Michael Simkins' earlier memoirs on acting and cricket - truthfully told and very (very) funny. If you are a fan of Bill Bryson (and who isn't?) you will adore this English counterpart; Michael Simkins. A wondrous read and a rare treat!
Jamie Hayes
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2009
Living here there is rarely a dull moment especially as we do not live in an English Commune. This book gives many examples of what we see/experience in our everyday life here and caused us many laughs. Our biggest laugh was at the ex-pat cricket match and the Scotch Eggs-no thanks!!!!!!!!!!!We receive an English Newspaper of French News monthly (worth its weight in gold as to what we can claim on Income Tax!) and groan at the number of people complaining about French ways, laws and lack of foods such as Baked Beans and Marmite.
This however is France and the author has captured it.
To fully appreciate it I think you need to have some knowledge of the French/France. In a short space of time the author has managed an insight into the French Psyche-for a more detailed look try "The Discovery of France" by Graham Robb.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It's strange and a little sad that one of the countries the British understand least is the one (excluding Southern Ireland) that is nearest to us, France. It is fair to say that the French are also the people we distrust the most as well. Most Frenchmen will tell you that the feeling is mutual - they don't like us and we don't like them.

Read this book though, and maybe your opinions will change a little. Actor Michael Simkins has managed to top his two previous books, which were both excellent, with his first travel book in which he visits various places in France in an attempt to get to know our neighbours a little better. Setting out with only a vague idea of where he intends to visit he travels around France taking in places and experiences that appealed to him. This means that instead of producing a comprehensive travelogue we read about just a handful of places, such as the seaside town where Jacques Tati filmed one of his favourite movies and Lourdes where, despite his misgivings due to not being catholic, he does more than just visit the famous shrine.

It is clear that Simkins possesses a very pleasing writing style, and is able to put across both the humour and the pathos of the situations that he found himself in. This is particularly prevalent in the two sections of the book that I enjoyed the most - ones where he tells us about his visit to a vineyard to learn about the appreciation of wine that went slightly wrong and his game of boules with a group of fierce looking Muslims which turns out rather different than he feared it would.

This is a very entertaining book, effortlessly managing to fulfil one of the main signs of a good travel book - for the first time in my life it made me actually want to visit France.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 2009
I loved his previous two books and, with this one, Simkins has done it again. In this account of his solo trip around France, he has once again injected his brand of humour into an entertaining account of his odyssey. He knows when to pull back on the humour, though, and his description of Lourdes was very moving.
He is fast cornering the market on self-deprecating middle age and I can't wait for the next one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 August 2009
One of the best boooks I've ever read, funny,charming and delightfully witty, couldn't put it down and to be honest one of the few books that has made me laugh out loud whilst reading it. Only one negative really(well not negative really) I just wish the chapter on Paris could have been a bit longer thats all. But once again a great book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2009
Very good story with lots of humour.
Only wish it had been longer!.
Very good value,and an 'easy-to-read' book.
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on 29 June 2013
A humorous book is notoriously difficult to pull off. This one proves it. Having read the overwhelmingly favourable reviews I expected a great deal better. Perhaps the sub-title - with its emphasis on Englishman & search for an education - should have served as a warning. Being a Scot (& thus easy to differentiate from a ray of sunshine, as Wodehouse pointed out) perhaps has something to do with the fact that, for me at least, the humour is heavy handed & panders to those who buy in to the stereotype of the French the English insist upon as a means of securing an easy laugh amongst themselves. As for an education, this is an author much in need of one. It is not just his often-proved ignorance of France & French mores (& to be fair he is willing to be charmed by the place & some of its people) but his ignorance of his own language & its proper use: there are many examples which should have been dealt with by a competent editor. One can see the thought process behind the book's production - find something that will appeal to an English reader & can be knocked off in three months while taking a holiday somewhere extremely pleasant & call it research for the purposes of reclaiming expenses. It's been done before Mr Simkins: & done better.

Part of the process employed is to "research" French factoids & play them back to the reader as easy filler in place of real, self-acquired, insight. There at least the author comes up with some gems. Who would have thought le Grand Charles, no less, would have conceived Jeux Sans Frontieres as a means of disarming the Germans: but it's true & of course fits the general theme of poking fun at the French. Likewise it is true that Charles Worth is generally accepted (i.e by English opinion) to have been the father of Parisian haute couture. Mr Worth's moustache alone makes it hard to reconcile that "fact" with modern Parisian ideas of elegance. But when it comes to self-acquired facts/opinions this book's worth is highly questionable. Thus the author slates Cannes as impossibly expensive based on the fact that he chose to stay at the Majestic & bigs up Nice, not having chosen to stay at any place remotely comparable to the Majestic, e.g the Negresco. He does not mention the sandy beaches of Cannes in comparison to the horrid pebble plage of Nice. For Scottish readers, the way to contrast the two would be to compare Cannes to Edinburgh & Nice to Glasgow. If only the sun would shine more in Scotland!
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on 23 December 2012
Having recently spent a month touring France in a camper van with my husband and daughter, I was interested to share Michael Simkins' journey through the pages of this book. His route overlapped with ours now and again, most notably in Arles, where I'd observed similar boules tournaments to the one in which he takes part.

I'd come across Michael Simkins' writing before, in various newspapers and on BBC Radio 4, and I'd also seen him in the theatre, acting the former Nigel Pargeter of The Archers off the stage in "Yes, Prime Minister" at Cheltenham. I suspect his acting talents fuel his wry observation of the people he meets, and vice versa. I'm also a longstanding fan of M. Hulot's Holiday - another reason for reading this book.

Michael Simkins writes very well. He is engaging, entertaining and honest. Genuinely self-deprecating, he often shares embarrassing experiences that others would have kept to themselves - but he's probably shrewd enough to know that the odd bit of confession makes for a better book. He is especially good when writing about French food and fashion from an Englishman's perspective.

The book's an easy, undemanding read and the author is pleasant company. While I'm not sufficiently interested in cricket to read his sporting books, I'm definitely planning to read his book about his acting career, of which I've heard snippets on the radio, and in which, I understand, he is equally open. I'll also be on the look-out for any travel books he writes in future, should he decidet, Palin-style, that his French experience has given him the courage to conquer further parts of the world (a handy second string in the unlikely event that his acting work dries up).

I'd recommend this book for any Briton who's planning a similar trip, or indeed for anyone who'd like to know what such a journey would be like without actually taking the trouble to go there himself. I'm glad to have been saved the trouble of going to Cannes, having read his unappealing description. This book, and "Mr Bean's Holiday" - another M. Hulot tribute - tell me all I need to know, to assure me that I would hate it!

Incidentally, I found the quotes on the cover rather distracting and would have enjoyed the book just as well without them. What on earth is Stephen Fry on about: "trouser-wipingly funny"? How does he read books, for goodness sake?! In any case, this book is not laugh-out-loud funny, but pleasantly and thoughtfully amusing (so safe to read on public transport)- very British, in fact, as Michael Simkins remains despite his French odyssey. If you want a hysterical book about France, this is not the one for you - it's much more subtle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 September 2009
This is not a profound book but Simkins has a style that is distincive enough to keep the reader happily engaged throughout. A middle aged man's tour through France that does not pick stereotypical locations to explore (except around Cannes/Nice). His reflections on Lourdes and Vichy present a different viewpoint on unloved towns, and his attendance at Paris fashion shows is very funny. So, it's relatively light reading; nice for a journey or a few evenings on holiday outside a cafe, but not essential reading. 3.5 stars (but 4 rather than 3) on the Amazon scale.
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