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I bought this book thinking it would be a funny perspective on France. It's not. Up until Chapter 2 I was hooked, but chapter 3 had way too many mistakes and it really annoyed me. I am French, so I can say more than one conclusion in this book are actually mere exceptions. Not everybody closes their shutters. City blackout at night, seriously? How about public lightings? The French don't like money. Right, as if there's anybody in the world who hates money! The French don't introduce themselves? I wonder what I'm doing when I pronounce my name... Norway has never been part of the European Union. Sales on restricted periods fixed by the law? Sure, we get "promotions" every DAY in our mailbox! The mistakes kept appearing throughout the book. It's as if nobody checked what was in it. The authors draw conclusions on merely one or a couple of examples, not very professional. What their very few friends tell them is simply seen as hard facts and directly applied to France as a whole. There is some truth in this book, but the problem is that an outsider won't know what to believe and what to distrust. I would suggest not to buy this book, it's too misleading.
I learned some things I didn't know about France and its people. However the authors beat each subject to death as they at the same time demonstrated the usual smugness of expatriates who in a few years in residence and with a handful of genuine experiences believe they know the culture. They surely had fun researching and writing the book. I wish I had fun reading it.
Glaringly they don't discuss or develop the tragic effect that World War I had on France. The cream of its manhood was wiped out. More than 1,300,000 people died, another 4,000,000 were wounded and hundreds of thousands disappeared or became prisoners. France suffered more than 6,000,000 casualties in that war. Its surrender early in WW II seems to have been done with the awareness that they couldn't suffer such losses again.
The French are wonderful people. While the book works to make us understand why we are different from each other, the authors even in their title show their unwillingness to understand it themselves. "why we love France but not the French" on the cover should have stopped me from even opening it.
I love France. In all my visits, I've never had the stereotypical experience of the rude Frenchman. So when I bought this book, I expected to finally see why people "don't love the French." I thought the book would be full of insight about French culture in daily living. Instead, the book is a poorly organized account of French history and politics from the time of Napoleon to the early 2000s. Instead of being organized chronologically, the book bounces around through history to fit into whichever theme the authors are currently discussing. There are occasional anecdotes from the authors' personal experiences in Paris that attempt the lighten the reading, but they're so short and vague that they're hardly worth the effort of including them. I read the first third of this book within a few days and then hit a wall. It took me another 5 months to finish the book (and I skimmed the last 12%) If you're looking for a book about French culture, this is not the book for you. If you're looking for a book about how France became the country it is today (historically and politically), then give this book a try.
This book was recommended to me by an American friend who lives in Paris. I am not French but I am not American either. To me, the book is far more of an expose of how two people from a very ethno-centric country (the United States)see other cultures and, surprise, discovers people who have had different experiences do not think, behave or believe the way they do. Wow. PS I love France and the French.