If I’d known the book was
yet another a blogger’s memoir, I wouldn’t have picked it, but it came warmly recommended by my friend Danielle, and so I was curious. I was expecting fearing British clichés about life in France, possibly halfway between A Year in Provence and A Year in the Merde.
Emma is a British young woman obsessed with France for her whole life. Even before going to university she crosses the Channel, finds a job in France (assistant language teacher in a gloomy Normandy high-school), promptly falls in love with a great French man and has two sons. She works as a lawyer in London for a time, but as soon as the opportunity arises her family moves to Paris… where they lived happily ever after, living in a macaroon-filled bliss.
Not so! Her arrival in Paris, in one of the wealthiest neighborhood (but not the most children-friendly, I know it, I lived nearby), was a bumpy one. People were not exactly friendly and welcoming, and she managed to make exactly… one friend, another British expat mom in culture shock. So after descending in full-blown depression, fueled by grief, loneliness and a tad of eating disorder (French pastries, here she comes!), she crossed the Channels a few times, picked herself up and transplanted her whole family to… Brussels. (Which makes the book a bit misleading because she effectively didn’t live in Paris that long)
I won’t tell you all about Emma Beddington’s life story, but I did appreciate her honesty and her impeccable British witticism. I never read her blog before, but I bet people liked her writing. Contrary to (some) US bloggers’ memoirs this one is not sanitized and not a one-way road to any kind of self-discovery and redemption. Yes, there is an epiphany and a happy end, but by a hair’s breadth (or so I felt). It’s a lot darker than what I expected (which is good, in that case). I hope you’ll pardon me if I confess I felt for her husband, and boy did he go through a hell of a roller coaster.