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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good fun view of life in France
I've just finished reading this as well as A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi: The Ideal Guide to Sounding, Acting and Shrugging Like the French and The Secret Life of France. I would say these are all good books as they all amusing, insightful and thankfully free of dumbing down or stereotyping of the French. If you're trying to choose between them then here is a comparison:...
Published on 22 Sep 2009 by A reader

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best
Author is cool and humour in this book and i have been to Paris alot and love it but humour rare and author makes too many references to himself ..... and overall I suspect being english i see it differently to a frenchman. Oh as a smoker eating meat it kinder waved some Archery fingers from Agingcourt lol
Published 5 months ago by Michael Imms


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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good fun view of life in France, 22 Sep 2009
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This review is from: Talk To The Snail (Paperback)
I've just finished reading this as well as A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi: The Ideal Guide to Sounding, Acting and Shrugging Like the French and The Secret Life of France. I would say these are all good books as they all amusing, insightful and thankfully free of dumbing down or stereotyping of the French. If you're trying to choose between them then here is a comparison:
1) A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi: The Ideal Guide to Sounding, Acting and Shrugging Like the French: Arch and hilarious overview that covers a wide variety of subjects. Covers a bit more ground than 'Talk to the snail' and with a bit more experience.
2) The Secret Life of France: This delves a lot deeper than the other two and is also hilarious in parts. Combines biography with revealing insights into the French character. The only book which also covers the serious / negative side of life in France - racial tension etc. Also good if you plan to educate your children in France as it has some information about the education system, how kids behave etc.
3) Talk to the Snail: Very funny book written by a younger author than the other two, slightly less incisive and definitely written from a male perspective - so not many insights on the dating game for women in here. Still great fun - probably the best book for you if you are a young single guy going to France. Subject matter quite similar to 'A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi' so maybe not worth buying both.

In a nutshell I would say buy either 'A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi' or 'Talk to the Snail' as these cover quite similar subject matter and 'tricks' for getting by in France. If you are looking for deeper insights, then also get 'The Secret Life of France'.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Right on the nose, 27 Mar 2007
This review is from: Talk To The Snail (Hardcover)
I've been in France since 1995, and have read almost every Anglophone book about the country. About 95% of them are full of clichés and not even funny. But Stephen's book is not only hilarious (I no longer care if Parisians stare at me when I'm laughing on the metro), it's also the most original critique I've read in a long time. I think it's also a fair book, because he makes as much fun of us English/Americans as he does the French. A great read!
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring the love/hate relationship, 12 Oct 2006
By 
A Common Reader "Committed to reading" (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Talk To The Snail (Hardcover)
Anyone familiar with A Year in the Merde or the author's follow-up book Merde Actually will have a rough idea of the style and content of Talk to The Snail. This time, rather than following the fortunes of Paul West, Stephen Clarke writes in his own name offering a wide range of advice on understanding the French.

Stephen Clarke takes the reader through eleven "commandments" such as Thou Shalt Not Work (the French addiction to the 4.5 day week and the public holiday) Thou Shalt Not be Served (why French waiters can be so difficult), and Thou Shalt be Ill (where Clarke writes about French hypochondria and gets in the inevitable references to suppositories). These commandments are all dealt with wittily of course, and anyone familiar with the country will recognise the traits and characteristice he describes.

Many people found the fictional Paul West so credible that they believed he really was a latter day Bryson, a real person writing about his real life, but in this volume, Stephen Clarke confirms that the earlier two books were novels rather than biography. However, the "voice" is the same, as is the enjoyment of the writing.

My only quibble is that I wonder if some of the French behaviours are Parisian rather than applying generally to the whole nation? I know from personal experience that the people of many areas of rural France are often polite, neighbourly and eager to help. However, let's not spoil a good diatribe with un-necessary altruism. The book is good natured throughout and I doubt the most patriotic French person would find much to complain about. This is another very humorous book from Clarke it is good to see the author step from behind the curtain of "Paul West". It will draw the reader from page to page as a light, refreshing read, a nicely presented harback book which would make an excellent gift for anyone who enjoys visiting France.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hillarious, 7 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Talk To The Snail (Paperback)
although i was expecting novel (i didn't read what the book was about before purchase. I like stephen Clarke, and just trust the author!)
this is a mini guide of french life!
if you know a bit of both side (french or british), you will laugh, smile, giggle at every page as is really, truly picks on french habits!
i am french, believe me, that's what we're like!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Naughty but affectionate guide to French thinking!, 16 Nov 2007
This review is from: Talk To The Snail (Paperback)
This is not another volume in the Paul West series, but a very funny guide to the way the French think, and what it's like to live there amongst it all! Anyone who's spent any time will recognise the descriptions of bureaucracy, restaurant waiters - and of course French drivers!! However, as with all the best of this type of book, there is some practical info along with the mockery.
Great gift for a Francophile, but beware reading in a public place, as people will be staring at you while you snigger!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All completely true!, 5 Nov 2006
This review is from: Talk To The Snail (Hardcover)
Having lived in France for the last few months, I've come to view Stephen Clarke's book as much more than a set of humorous anecdotes about our closest neighbours. As well as being highly amusing, it's also completely true. I find myself consulting it when I need advice on how to approach a situation. The chapter about how to get things done in France is invaluable. The book functions on 2 levels: 1) an hilarious account of the habits and peculiarities of the French, and 2) an extremely useful guide on how best to understand the French and get things done when living in France.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Theoretical and practical training!, 22 May 2009
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This review is from: Talk To The Snail (Paperback)
Having bought this book in Paris I constantly found myself reading a chapter and then encountering practical illustrations of the observations Stephen Clarke had made. The presentation is very amusing (I stopped reading it in public as I laughed out loud too often.) As someone who has only been to France a couple of times and was wanting to learn more about the culture and society he also gave some insights into the structure of the health service, background in gastronomy and civil service structure. A very readable and enjoyable book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Good Merde Guide, 6 Nov 2009
This review is from: Talk To The Snail (Paperback)
The English have always had a love-hate fascination-frustration with France, so near geographically yet so different culturally it often seems deliberate. One of the reasons Steven Clarke's original 'Year in the Merde' and 'Merde Actually' tales were so successful was the bemused-Englishman commentary of the minutiae of contemporary French life. To some extent 'Snail' could be thought of the accompanying textbook to his earlier novels and the idea put me off to be honest, thinking from the asinine title it might be a 'Pile of Merde'. But of course Clarke quickly establishes himself a witty and acute social observer, dividing French existence into eleven (sic) useful 'commandments' such as 'Thou shalt not be served' and 'Thou shalt not work'. The author's position could be described as 'critical affection'; he clearly loves as much as is exasperated by his subject. It reminded me of Charles Timoney's recent 'Pardon My French: Unleash Your Inner Gaul' a similarly commendable guide lumbered with a dreadful title. Clarke goes one better though by outing 'the love that dare not speak its name', the French's 'unavowed adoration of the Anglo-Saxon'. So the whole love-hate fascination-frustration thing is in fact mutual. Merde alors!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, 17 Feb 2007
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This review is from: Talk To The Snail (Hardcover)
This is essential reading for anyone interested in France and the French.

Fantastic insights into how the French think, and the origins of some of their foibles etc.

It made me laugh outloud ( and make a bit of a spectacle of myself on London's buses in the process).

Informative, well written, and funny too. I didn't want it to end- and I'm hoping there will be more to come.

A "must have" read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars With a Smile on your Face, 14 May 2010
This review is from: Talk To The Snail (Paperback)
We have been interested in France for many years and are considering a move, we love the scenery the atmosphere and the people. This book was recommended from another book about France. The content of Talk to the Snail is very real but presented with a senses of humor, we found it hilarious. So for those who intend to go to France, either on holiday or permanently, then this book will be a light welcome to the French culture, cuisine and life style so your trip or move will welcome you to France with a smile on your face.
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Talk To The Snail
Talk To The Snail by Stephen Clarke (Paperback - 2 July 2007)
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