Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Travels with Tinkerbelle by Susie Kelly

While the village farmers have been busy with the harvest; the combine harvester engines chugging well into the night and the tractors with the huge trailers for gathering the bales rattling their way through the village, I have been travelling around France from the comfort of my sun lounger.

French Village Diaries Book Review Travels with Tinkerbelle Susie Kelly FranceTravels With Tinkerbelle: 6,000 Miles Around France In A Mechanical Wreck by Susie Kelly follows Susie, her husband Terry, two dogs and Tinkerbelle, a clapped out campervan, around France.  Starting in Brittany, they drive the Atlantic Coast to the Pyrenees, cross the mountains, follow the Mediterranean to the Alps and then head north covering 6000 miles by the time they arrive back in Brittany.  Wow, what a road trip, and I was very jealous, although I would have been happier in a VW Campervan with a stripy roof as I always wanted one of these as a child.

The chaos that is Tinkerbelle struggling along, sometimes on difficult terrain with two adults and two large dogs, one still a puppy who delights in eating non-edibles, makes for some very funny tales to read.  I think Susie has a great mix of describing the France they see out of the window, the often hilarious mishaps that occur, both from their four legged and four wheeled traveling companions, and interesting snippets of French history trivia.  I learned a lot on my virtual travels with her and although many places they visited I was familiar with, I have added to my list of places I still need to get to.  I was also pleased to confirm that it is not just us who struggle to find somewhere to eat out (or someone to serve us) in France!

Susie Kelly has also written about her solo walk across France, Best Foot Forward - A 500-Mile Walk Through Hidden France (see here for my review), The Valley Of Heaven And Hell - Cycling In The Shadow Of Marie Antoinette, her cycling adventure in the Marne Valley (see here for my review) and life running gites in Poitou-Charentes in Swallows & Robins - The Guests In My Garden (see here for my review).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Son of Serge Bastarde by John Dummer

Author John Dummer was kind enough to send me a copy of his second book Son of Serge Bastarde: Mayhem in the Antiques Markets of Rural France which I have really enjoyed reading.

John lives in a lovely area of South West France, an area I don’t know as well as I would like, but having read his book I’m determined to see more of.  Village life in rural France is full of wonderful characters, some you love, some you do your best to avoid and John’s life has all of this and more.  He and his wife Helen work the brocantes markets selling their English wares – china tea sets go down a storm apparently.  The other traders, English, French and Gypsy are a colourful lot and life with them gives John some great things to write about.  His main buddy Serge, who he introduces us to in his first book Serge Bastarde Ate My Baguette: On the Road in the Real Rural France: On the Road in Real Rural France suddenly reappears back on the brocante scene and has a son in tow.  The three of them have some great misadventures, often trying to fix situations Serge’s son has got him into.  I know I shouldn’t have laughed when John and Serge found themselves trapped in a skip with no mobiles, a need to pee and a bad back, but I couldn’t help it.  This book is very entertaining.

Thanks to John (and Serge) I also now know the identity of the winged ‘fairy’ we saw flying over the garden a few weeks ago; a Capricorn beetle who I hope stays well away from our roof timbers (worried), but at least I also know not to get Serge and John in to exterminate it!

I am really glad John has more tales to tell us of his life in France (with Serge).  Happy writing John.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Parrot in My Soup by Andy Frazier

I recently read two books from Andy Frazier (one straight after the other), A Parrot in My Soup and Who the Heck is Auntie Florette?   They are both a collection of snippets of Andy’s life in South West France and both make for enjoyable, easy reading.  Andy has a great sense of humour, maybe not to everyone’s taste (think Clarksonesque), but certainly to mine (and Ade’s).  Ade got so fed up of me chuckling away and constantly reading bits out to him that he decided to read them too and it is not often we have the same taste in books.

Despite him covering as many lows as highs in his life, I found both books to be very entertaining.  They are extracts of a column he writes, so written very much like a blog, which means you are carried along in Andy’s world (which often extends outside of France too), always wanting to know what comes next.  It was great having the second book to carry on after the first, but I was then left a little bereft when I finished, so hopefully it won’t be too long before he releases another one.  Although he does have plenty of other titles to keep me going!

I can also report that he is just as fun and friendly in real life, as when he heard we would be driving by on our Road Trip he invited us in for coffee.  He very generously gave Ed a signed copy of one of his children’s books Moulin which I am going to read too.  

I can recommend ‘A Parrot in My Soup’ and ‘Who the Heck is Auntie Florette’ especially for holiday reading, now summer is here.  With no complex plot or huge cast of characters you can easily pick up and put down whilst around the pool or while travelling, and you are sure to laugh at some of the things rural French living throws his way.

Happy reading.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

L'Auberge by Julia Stagg

I find myself in a pleasing predicament of having lots of books waiting to be read, thanks to some generous authors who write my kind of books (on France) and also the recent local book sale I ran amok in.  I love reading, always have done, but at the moment there is so much to do outside I feel I am letting my books down.  Maybe I should set aside some quality time on a squishy cushion, under a shady tree, and make a date with a book.

I have just finished reading L'Auberge by Julia Stagg.  L’Auberge is set in the small commune of Fogas in the Pyrenees where life is thrown into turmoil when an English couple arrive to take over the Auberge.  I instantly felt at home in Fogas, where village life seemed so familiar to our little village, especially as they too have the ever present divide in village politics with power hungry would be mayors!  It is obvious that Julia has lived in and experienced French village life first hand; you really couldn’t make up some of the things that happen and I was pleased to see Johnny Hallyday made a guest appearance too - no village knees-up would be complete without him.  The book has so many lovely characters whose lives are all entwined, both as the story is being told and from past events, which gives us lots of ‘will they won’t they’ moments.  

I laughed a lot, especially as English food was often the ‘joke’, but unless you have come across a real French person’s reaction to our cuisine you wouldn’t believe it.  I also cried at the end, and the last few chapters had me gripped not knowing which way things were going to swing – it was one of those books that made me stay up way too late at night, thanks Julia.

Anyone who has lived in a French village will understand and nod knowingly, anyone who thinks they would like to live (and work) in a French village should read it and learn from it.

Thankfully, Julia’s second novel The Parisian's Return also set in Fogas, starts immediately L’Auberge finishes.  See here for a preview.  I think Jacques was my favourite character in L’Auberge, and as he is central to life at the epicerie I can’t wait to find out what happens to him, and what life has in store for the other villagers.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Vantastic France by Steve Bichard

When living abroad you do tend to find yourself flung into the local expat community, but just because we have come from the same place and arrived in the same place there is no standard ‘one size fits all’ expat, and you will find yourself mixing with people who back in the UK your paths would never have crossed.  You soon learn who is likely to enrich your life and who to politely avoid – sometimes your choices surprise you!  Also, daily life as an expat is not the same as being on holiday and there can be just as many downs as ups.  

In Vantastic France Steve Bichard has done a really good job of describing the highs and lows of a new family settling into rural Brittany and finding their place amongst their French neighbours and the expats already there.  It is a fun, easy read that in many places had me laughing and nodding in agreement.  I’m sure many other expats reading it will find themselves thinking ‘oh yes, I’ve met a Clarissa or a Barry before’.  I certainly had a great affinity with Linda and her vegetable growing.  This is Steve’s first novel and I thought it moved along very well and the ending has been left in a great place for a follow up, as I’m sure Steve has plenty more stories for the loveable rogue Barry and his long suffering wife Linda.  My only small criticism would be that at times some things are a little over explained, which I found a bit unnecessary.

Vantastic France is available in ebook or paperback from Amazon.