8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
, 18 July 2009
This review is from: The Secret Life of France (Paperback)
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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. I do however feel that France had ground up against her, and she against France. I have seldom encountered anything but kindness even from Parisian waiters (indeed when I once enquired which restaurant they would recommend in another part of Paris, my waiter called a soviet of his colleagues and they delivered two excellent recommendations five minutes later after Danton-style debate) and so I do not see all that Lucy sees. But then she saw it day-in and day-out. By the end of the book while I might disagree I was at both educated and entertained, but more importantly amused.
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