3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars France from the English point of view
I am not sure what other reviewers expected from this book but surely anything autobiographical is going to be about that person's life and thoughts? If the author is being honest then their actions and thoughts are not going to be palatable to everyone reading the book. To me this is warts and all autobiography and far better than sanitised versions that are often...
Published on 21 Mar. 2008 by Damaskcat
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Petite Anglaise
Petite Anglaise is a memoir by Catherine Sanderson based on her blog of the same name. In 2004, on a whim, Catherine decided to start up a blog about a thirty-something British woman living in Paris. A year after she started the blog in 2005, she left her then-partner Mr Frog (with whom she had Tadpole) for a commenter on her blog. Then in 2006 she got dumped, dooced...
Published on 31 Oct. 2009 by Leah Graham
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52 of 70 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Petite Anglaise... Me. Myself. I.,
I was initially put off by this book's cover as it screamed "mummy lit", but having lived in Paris for several years, I decided to give it a go and kind of wish I had saved my money. On the positive side, I did enjoy reading about Paris and revisiting some of my old haunts but I could have read the Rough Guide for that and saved my money!
I had never heard of Catherine Sanderson, or her blog, and have since taken a look, and was amused to see that she has dedicated a whole post to negative reviewers on this page, referring to them as trolls, and encouraged her little posse of sycophants to hurl all manner of insults in the direction of negative reviewers. Well, I am neither a jealous wannabee, or a frustrated author, I just happened to think this was not a very good book at all!
The book does start off quite well but from the moment that Catherine starts recounting her adventures in blogging, it goes right downhill. I gather she claims that blogging is all about the writing for her, and that she has no interest in people judging, commenting, or offering advice on her life - however on reading it was clear that she relishes the attention and being a mini internet celebrity and totally gets off on it. The low point of the book came for me when she ends her relationship with long term partner Mr Frog and, the minute he walks out devastated, switches her computer on and posts about it. Catherine claims that she portrays herself in a negative light purposely, which is all well and good - my main gripe with this would be that, with a good author, you empathize and identify with characters in spite of, or even because of their flaws. Catherine just comes across as obnoxious, smug, and filled with an overwhelming self regard. Furthermore, I don't really get the impression she has the capacity to reflect on her actions with any measure of lucidity. I also felt really uncomfortable at the way she manipulates the men in her life and her audience to get the response that she needs - it made me cringe.
The only sympathetic character in this memoir is Mr Frog, although I did struggle to believe in him as he is so sweet to Catherine despite her shoddy treatment of him. As a heroine, Catherine is deeply unsympathetic, and James' attraction is never made clear, apart from the fact that he clearly flatters Catherine's ego, and offers her an escape route from a life she is discontented with. Reading about the development of their relationship was quite sad as it was clearly doomed to failure, and a grand illusion on both sides, and one that caused a lot of hurt to a lot of people (although the sex scenes, if they can be called that, did make me giggle, they were so Mills and Boon!)
From the point of view of the writing, I also found this book to be full of clichés - clichéd writing, but also, and more annoyingly, clichés about France and Britain. For someone who claims to have been obsessed with all things French from a young age, I find Ms Sanderson's point of view limited at best, offensive at worst. This is definitely one that will appeal to Brits and expats only, as I doubt the French will find her writing or style particularly relatable. If you want to read about Paris, I would suggest "Almost French" by Sarah Tunrbull, and if you want light, fun, reading, and a likeable heroine, I would suggest Marian Keyes.
18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing,
As a reader of her blog, I expected to like this book and was very much looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, and surprisingly actually, I was disappointed.
The book features many traits of bad writing that 'Petite' has managed to avoid in her blog: cringeworthy dissection of her relationships, clunky prose, Take-A-Break magazine style dialogue, pointless detail. Where's the breezy, stylish turn of phrase, the clarity of focus, her ability, in just a few words to pinpoint an emotion, a thought? Her usually thoughtful, economic choice of words was lost in her attempt to write a whole book.
I almost felt like she knew this too, as fantastic clips of some of her better blog posts are included, as if she needed to prove she really CAN write. Unfortunately, as a reader of her blog, I could see where entire episodes are rehashed and very slightly reworded; disappointing, because it made me wonder if she was struggling for material? Is this really the best she could come up with? Had she already told us all the best bits?
Also, I think I expected something 'more'...perhaps a broader commentry on blogging in itself or something? I certainly didn't expect the bulk of the book to be a more detailed account of her relationship with 'Jim in Rennes'. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit curious to know more...but not THAT much! I can understand that it was probably therapeutic for her, but honestly? It really wasn't interesting enough to warrant the time spent on it. It comes across as a bit self-indulgent, but I don't think it was. Perhaps she thought that was what people wanted to read. I think she sold herself a bit short there, as she seems to have far more to offer.
As I said, I really like her blog, so I would read any more books that she writes, in the hope that she gets better with more experience. Or maybe she's just better in small doses, in which case maybe she should stick to her blog and/or short stories. I think one day she may look back on this first attempt, as she says she looks back on her early blog posts, and realise how far she's come.
I think she's got a lot of potential and look forward to reading her next book.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story!,
This was a great book. I can see how it wouldn't be everyones cup of tea, but I thought Catherine was frank and honest and maybe some can't handle that?
I have three boys and have been through two divorces, so I totally saw where Catherine was coming from. When she had her 'hissy fit' about having to look after tadpole, I think that is a true reflection on how some women feel at times but they are too scared to admit it for fear of retribution.
I think she should be applauded for standing up and saying how it is for her, and for many women like her. I for one totally recommend the book, put your predjudices to one side and enjoy it!
26 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit self-absorbed?,
I was excited with anticipation to read this book but what I was left with was a bad taste in my mouth. I have never read such a self-absorbed account of someone who just tore other peoples lives apart with no thought to the consequences. I winced at times reading this in utter shock that someone would be so immature as to think that putting this on paper would somehow make them a writer. I was embarrassed for the writer and came away thinking of how I did not like her, her so-called motives, her choices, or the way she justified basically ripping peoples lives apart. No one begrudges someone in a bad marriage who wants to get out, but the writer is immature, self absorbed, and basically selfish; which made the book a very uncomfortable and unpleasent read.
23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pathetic, as only narcissism can be,
Autobiography of a woman in a dull marriage who discovers blogging and turns her own life into soap opera just to have something to write about - "I've been struggling to hold everyone's attention since James jumped ship." (page 326) It just doesn't occur to her that she's not manipulating with fictional characters but with real people, including her daughter. It leaves a sad aftertaste in your mouth after reading.
14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmm.....,
I didn't know the Petite Anglaise blog, and so came to the novel as a virgin, not being familiar with Mr. Frog et al. I found the storyline quite amusing - an easy pleasant read. I was, however, a bit taken aback by the heroine's self-love, and her rather calculated disregard of others. She gets bored with her long-time partner and falls in love with another man. But only a few pages in she finds fault with the new lover as well. Doesn't like his jeans, not smart enough, pays too much attention to his kids, not enough to her, he's too English... you name it. Nobody can live up to her own wonderfulness. Another weakness is the really feeble dialogue along the lines of "Okay, I know this is hard but let' not make it more difficult" etc. which is a bit tedious. Still, as I say, the novel prattles on pleasantly enough, and as the papers have already called it the new Bridget Jones, we will just have to wait for the film to pop up soon.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A well written novel on a complex subject matter,
This review is from: Petite Anglaise (Paperback)
I picked this book up in a charity shop, woefully misled by the pretty cover to believe that this was infact chicklit. Erm, actually its not. Like a few other reviewers I'm honestly not sure what genre this book wants to be, but I read it anyway and I did enjoy it- I finished it anyway. One thing I found difficult though was to muster up any sympathy for Catherine herself- which I think she was aiming for but failed miserably; but I'll let you make your own mind up.
The book follows the true-life exploits of Francophile blogger Catherine, obsessed with France since a teen and always determined to live there one day. And she does. Happily ensconced in Paris with her french boyfriend 'Mr Frog' and adorable toddler daughter 'Tadpole' she catalogues her life in France from an English woman's perspective and hence, Petite Anglaise is born. Only Catherine isn't wholly satisfied with her life afterall, and after an encounter and emails with one of her blog commenters 'Jim from Rennes' she starts to wonder if maybe there should be more to life than what she presently has, and so her world, and the world of those around her is turned upside down.
I never read the Petite Anglaise blog, which is maybe why I felt the book to be dry in places. Catherine also came across as very selfish- neglecting both her work and even her daughter at times to meet 'Jim.' She also admits that at times she exaggerated her blog to make her stories funnier, and alas it got me wondering just what was true in this book and what wasn't. Unlike other books I've read about Paris, this one made it appear a bit seedy unfortunately as there was deceit and misery through most chapters- it's a good thing I've been there and know better! Nevertheless, I think this book would make a good beach read, just don't hold out for a fairytale chicklit romance.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but better with the context,
The novel is a real-life story about an English woman who relocated to Paris and lives there with her partner and their young daughter. She starts a blog, and slowly her life begins to change as she falls in love, giving her the incentive to step away from an increasingly dried up relationship with the child (her `Tadpole')'s father, named Mr Frog on her blog.
The difficulty with reviewing this accurately on my part is that, I read the blog. I stumbled on it after most of this had happened but the fact remains that, by reading the blog, I am automatically fond of the character of Petite Anglaise in an entirely different way than the way I approach authors, even authors whose stories I often like. Knowing someone, even a little, on a blog makes reading something they've written more intimate, regardless of whether it be fact or fiction. In this novel, too, I was overwhelmed by a sense of context.
The story is good, sweet, funny, sad, and charming. To a reader coming straight to the book all they see is the information presented there- and the story they read is very different, in a sense, to the one I read. For example, I knew how the relationships would turn out- because I'd read the blog. I also knew things that weren't included in the book, because they were part of another story. The author was unlawfully dismissed from her job after her boss discovered her blog. This is not a secret to the world, indeed, it was reported quite widely and was known amongst the blogging sphere. However, none of this- and the subsequent fall-out- is mentioned in the book, because the book is a different sort of story. But because I know this happened, every time the lady in the book went to work, I interpreted every smile on the Boss' face- and every frown- as a forewarning. Every time she replied to a personal email at work, or took a day off to visit a house, or to go to visit James- the context bell chimed in my head. This did not make the book any less good for me. In fact, it probably made me like it more-because I knew some of the story, though not all because the blog, like all blogs, had been censored whilst certain things were happening.
Because of this, I cannot give a review that could truthfully tell you how good this book is on its own, sans context. With context, it is a lovely, interesting, absorbing read.
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear,
This review is from: Petite Anglaise (Paperback)
I was in a fluffy mood so i got this from the library thankfully I didn't pay money for it.
The author writes in a gushy style that irritated me and used rather a hackneyed style and her so called 'hilarious' anecdotes were just average. I'm not judging her on her morals because relationships flounder all the time but she came across as a selfish woman, ok I could say she wrote with candour but it didn't come across like that. It came across as needy and nasty.
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Petite Anglaise,
As a reader of the blog Petite Anglaise details of Catherine's life were not unfamiliar yet the book Petite Anglaise was not a collection of posts lifted from the blog. This was a year in her life, a background context if you will, to the subject of her blog. She returns to her initial blogging subject - her love of Paris and life as an English girl living in Paris - fitting into it an analysis and commentary of her actions and thoughts in relation to her blog. She attempts to examine herself and some of her motives behind what and why she writes yet the style is that of the familiar chick-lit formulae emphasised by the pink cover with line drawings. Catherine occasionally indulges in standard cliches but by and large it is readable.
It is an odd thing critiquing someone's book which you know is actually about their life. There are clearly biased opinions and all the detail is saved for the descriptions of Paris rather than developing the characters. James (Lover) manages to come across as a rather weak character and one can only assume what he will make of his starring role in someone else's fame. Of Mr Frog, to whom the book is also dedicated, there is even less detail save that he seems bigger than could be expected to still treat Catherine kindly after all she put him through. I hesitate to criticise Catherine too strongly for I feel she, through the book, admits that she has not behaved entirely appropriately but managed to stay true to herself. For example, Catherine states that her relationship with Mr Frog was floundering when they decided to have a child. The moral streak in me suggests that those are not the best intentions with which to enter into parenthood let alone words to be written down where the child in question might one day read them. Yet Catherine has the ability to be honest and examine the rights and wrongs of those actions, so who I am to (necessarily and arbitrarily) judge them.
All in all, I enjoyed reading Petite Anglaise and would recommend it to any of the followers of her blog. It satisfied my curiosity to know more about Catherine and her life leading up to and behind Petite, although her admission that she occasionally embellished and distorted the truth to make better posting on her blog made me wonder if some of the elements of the book had not suffered the same fate. In general though I admired her honesty - she didn't paint herself as either a perfect person nor one who had suffered at the hands of others. Indeed at times she alluded to the fact that she became Petite and behaved how she had created her persona to behave. It will be interesting to see how she reconciles these suggestions as her blog continues post book launch and whether or not she feels the need to add a second installment to her memoirs.
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Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson (Paperback - 5 Feb. 2009)
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