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(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living

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Every year upon arriving in Plobien, the small Breton town where he spends his summers, American writer Mark Greenside picks back up where he left off with his faux-pas-filled Francophile life. Mellowed and humbled, but not daunted (OK, slightly daunted), he faces imminent concerns: What does he cook for a French person? Who has the right-of-way when entering or exiting a Every year upon arriving in Plobien, the small Breton town where he spends his summers, American writer Mark Greenside picks back up where he left off with his faux-pas-filled Francophile life. Mellowed and humbled, but not daunted (OK, slightly daunted), he faces imminent concerns: What does he cook for a French person? Who has the right-of-way when entering or exiting a roundabout? Where does he pay for a parking ticket? And most dauntingly of all, when can he touch the tomatoes? Despite the two decades that have passed since Greenside's snap decision to buy a house in Brittany and begin a bi-continental life, the quirks of French living still manage to confound him. Continuing the journey begun in his 2009 memoir about beginning life in France, (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living details Greenside's daily adventures in his adopted French home, where the simplest tasks are never straightforward but always end in a great story. Through some hits and lots of misses, he learns the rules of engagement, how he gets what he needs--which is not necessarily what he thinks he wants--and how to be grateful and thankful when (especially when) he fails, which is more often than he can believe. Introducing the English-speaking world to the region of Brittany in the tradition of Peter Mayle's homage to Provence, Mark Greenside's first book, I'll Never Be French, continues to be among the bestselling books about the region today. Experienced Francophiles and armchair travelers alike will delight in this new chapter exploring the practical and philosophical questions of French life, vividly brought to life by Greenside's humor and affection for his community.


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Every year upon arriving in Plobien, the small Breton town where he spends his summers, American writer Mark Greenside picks back up where he left off with his faux-pas-filled Francophile life. Mellowed and humbled, but not daunted (OK, slightly daunted), he faces imminent concerns: What does he cook for a French person? Who has the right-of-way when entering or exiting a Every year upon arriving in Plobien, the small Breton town where he spends his summers, American writer Mark Greenside picks back up where he left off with his faux-pas-filled Francophile life. Mellowed and humbled, but not daunted (OK, slightly daunted), he faces imminent concerns: What does he cook for a French person? Who has the right-of-way when entering or exiting a roundabout? Where does he pay for a parking ticket? And most dauntingly of all, when can he touch the tomatoes? Despite the two decades that have passed since Greenside's snap decision to buy a house in Brittany and begin a bi-continental life, the quirks of French living still manage to confound him. Continuing the journey begun in his 2009 memoir about beginning life in France, (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living details Greenside's daily adventures in his adopted French home, where the simplest tasks are never straightforward but always end in a great story. Through some hits and lots of misses, he learns the rules of engagement, how he gets what he needs--which is not necessarily what he thinks he wants--and how to be grateful and thankful when (especially when) he fails, which is more often than he can believe. Introducing the English-speaking world to the region of Brittany in the tradition of Peter Mayle's homage to Provence, Mark Greenside's first book, I'll Never Be French, continues to be among the bestselling books about the region today. Experienced Francophiles and armchair travelers alike will delight in this new chapter exploring the practical and philosophical questions of French life, vividly brought to life by Greenside's humor and affection for his community.

30 review for (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    3.5...I have read several books like this; an American buys a home somewhere in France and writes about his or her adventures with the language, food, people and culture. My French major from long ago still draws me to them somehow. This was entertaining AND educational, IF I had ever entertained the notion!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Karina

    An American buys a house in Brittany (it really doesn't matter, it could have been Provence,Dordogne,Auvergne...)and is confronted with the inhabitants and their very local habits. Fair enough,but what I don't get is that the author has spent 2 months every year in Brittany for 25 years and his vocabulary still doesn't reach beyond bonjour and bonsoir. A copy of French for Dummies would be very appropriate. The result is that both the author and the French sound like complete idiots. Not very re An American buys a house in Brittany (it really doesn't matter, it could have been Provence,Dordogne,Auvergne...)and is confronted with the inhabitants and their very local habits. Fair enough,but what I don't get is that the author has spent 2 months every year in Brittany for 25 years and his vocabulary still doesn't reach beyond bonjour and bonsoir. A copy of French for Dummies would be very appropriate. The result is that both the author and the French sound like complete idiots. Not very respectful towards your adoptive country,is it? And there are some grammatical errors (not the author's)for instance : probléme instead of problème. Apparently the editor also needed a copy of French for Dummies ). Still,there are some passages in this book that definitely made me smile,always a good thing...but it has been done before and so much better... www.booksdogsandcats.wordpress.com

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ann Mah

    Hilarious memoir about life as an American in Brittany, (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living, reminds me of Stephen Clarke's books with its astute observations, wit, and affection for France. Hilarious memoir about life as an American in Brittany, (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living, reminds me of Stephen Clarke's books with its astute observations, wit, and affection for France.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    I love books like this! Ex-pat moves to a foreign country... I have collected, and read, quite a few and this one is every bit as entertaining as the others! Only instead of Italy or Spain- it's France. Mr. Greenside is a very brave man! I am very sure I could never move to a foreign country. Seriously, My family moved to the US two years before I was born;. I returned "home" for a visit, and was counting down the days to leave! And I LOVED Germany! I miss my family there, too. But never enough I love books like this! Ex-pat moves to a foreign country... I have collected, and read, quite a few and this one is every bit as entertaining as the others! Only instead of Italy or Spain- it's France. Mr. Greenside is a very brave man! I am very sure I could never move to a foreign country. Seriously, My family moved to the US two years before I was born;. I returned "home" for a visit, and was counting down the days to leave! And I LOVED Germany! I miss my family there, too. But never enough to move there! It was just too difficult to want to tackle as a permanent move and I speak the language, too! I read these stories and am astonished that the ex-pats stay. I'd be running home! But still I do enjoy the tales they tell and I am sure they inspire many to try it out. I finds the one week trips are plenty enough, with a tour group! Fun read! Thank you Netgalley for an advance copy which has no way influenced my opinion.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Koren

    An American visits France and buys a house there and spends some time there each year. This book humorously describes the differences between America and France. At first I wasn't quite sure if it was suppose to be humorous or if he was just complaining. I wouldn't say this is laugh out loud funny but it does have some cute moments. Not sure if I would want to visit after reading this book. It seems a little too complicated for me. An American visits France and buys a house there and spends some time there each year. This book humorously describes the differences between America and France. At first I wasn't quite sure if it was suppose to be humorous or if he was just complaining. I wouldn't say this is laugh out loud funny but it does have some cute moments. Not sure if I would want to visit after reading this book. It seems a little too complicated for me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    The author made this such an entertaining read and I kept laughing throughout of the funny moments he had. His descriptions of events that happened to him were so genuine and he also did a great job explaining his understanding of French culture that a foreigner would not know. He answered many questions and misunderstandings foreigners have of French culture and interesting differences between France and US. Reading it makes me more comfortable for my own visit to France.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Len

    Another trip to Brittany is this follow-up to "I'll Never Be French (No Matter What I do)", and it is as delightful as its predecessor. Seriously yearning to at least visit northern France now, thanks to Greenside. Also seriously hungry... Another trip to Brittany is this follow-up to "I'll Never Be French (No Matter What I do)", and it is as delightful as its predecessor. Seriously yearning to at least visit northern France now, thanks to Greenside. Also seriously hungry...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fred Sampson

    Recommended by friends who often travel in France, I found this a mildly entertaining addition to the genre of "I'll never understand those funny French." Redeemed somewhat by listing "things I learned" at the end of each chapter, some of them potentially useful. Good enough for me to buy the predecessor work by the same author. Recommended by friends who often travel in France, I found this a mildly entertaining addition to the genre of "I'll never understand those funny French." Redeemed somewhat by listing "things I learned" at the end of each chapter, some of them potentially useful. Good enough for me to buy the predecessor work by the same author.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kari

    If you’ve spent time in France you will probably enjoy this. There are some laugh out loud moments. This was just the ticket for me.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Soosie

    What a lot of fun! Mark Greenside has painted us the perfect picture of adjusting to the many mysteries of French life. Although I have to admit that it didn’t take us quite as long to discover the Secret of the French Shopping Cart, some of his other accounts reminded us of our own experiences. As a bonus, he reflects on the differences in approach of the French and Americans to the challenges of daily life, and what they reveal of our two cultures. And it is pure pleasure to hear about old fri What a lot of fun! Mark Greenside has painted us the perfect picture of adjusting to the many mysteries of French life. Although I have to admit that it didn’t take us quite as long to discover the Secret of the French Shopping Cart, some of his other accounts reminded us of our own experiences. As a bonus, he reflects on the differences in approach of the French and Americans to the challenges of daily life, and what they reveal of our two cultures. And it is pure pleasure to hear about old friends from his first volume, I’ll Never Be French (No matter What I Do). There is not a false note in this charming, and often laugh-out-loud, story. If you have never had the luxury of an extended stay in rural France, and even if you have, this is a warm, thoroughly engaging portrait of French village life. I’m already impatient for the next installment!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Sometimes introspection on your own awkwardness and faux-pas can be charming, but only if there is some evidence that you've learned from your mistakes and tried to do better. Reading this litany of embarrassing, and completely avoidable, situations, delivered with a pride in being stubbornly awkward and being shocked when the world does not bend backwards to make you comfortable, made me distinctly uncomfortable, and I gave up reading. Sometimes introspection on your own awkwardness and faux-pas can be charming, but only if there is some evidence that you've learned from your mistakes and tried to do better. Reading this litany of embarrassing, and completely avoidable, situations, delivered with a pride in being stubbornly awkward and being shocked when the world does not bend backwards to make you comfortable, made me distinctly uncomfortable, and I gave up reading.

  12. 4 out of 5

    =^.^= Janet

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher Every year upon arriving in Plobien, the small Breton town where he spends his summers, American writer Mark Greenside picks back up where he left off with his faux-pas–filled Francophile life. Mellowed and humbled, but not daunted (OK, slightly daunted), he faces imminent concerns: What does he cook for a French person? Who has the right-of-way when entering or exiting a rou I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher Every year upon arriving in Plobien, the small Breton town where he spends his summers, American writer Mark Greenside picks back up where he left off with his faux-pas–filled Francophile life. Mellowed and humbled, but not daunted (OK, slightly daunted), he faces imminent concerns: What does he cook for a French person? Who has the right-of-way when entering or exiting a roundabout? Where does he pay for a parking ticket? And most dauntingly of all, when can he touch the tomatoes? Despite the two decades that have passed since Greenside’s snap decision to buy a house in Brittany and begin a bi-continental life, the quirks of French living still manage to confound him. Continuing the journey begun in his 2009 memoir about beginning life in France, (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living details Greenside’s daily adventures in his adopted French home, where the simplest tasks are never straightforward but always end in a great story. Through some hits and lots of misses, he learns the rules of engagement, how he gets what he needs—which is not necessarily what he thinks he wants—and how to be grateful and thankful when (especially when) he fails, which is more often than he can believe. Introducing the English-speaking world to the region of Brittany in the tradition of Peter Mayle’s homage to Provence, Mark Greenside’s first book, I’ll Never Be French, continues to be among the bestselling books about the region today. Experienced Francophiles and armchair travelers alike will delight in this new chapter exploring the practical and philosophical questions of French life, vividly brought to life by Greenside’s humor and affection for his community. I loved this book – it is laugh out loud funny at times and as someone married to a French man I had to keep reading sections aloud to my husband and other family members. He reminds me greatly of Peter Mayle’s beloved books but he is a bit more caustic, which is right up my alley! I now know that I never want to drive in France but decidedly want to eat and drink there (more butter, please1) I enjoyed it enough to pre-order it as well as buying his first book “I'll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany” and have suggested that it be a book club pick for two of my six book clubs. Great job! Great book!!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Randal White

    Greenside presents a familiar tale of visiting France, falling in love with it, and purchasing a home there. You know the type, the American who buys a 100+ year old house, and then shortly thereafter writes a book about his experiences. The difference in this book is that he has continued spending his summers there for around twenty five years. The book draws on much deeper details than one of someone who has only been there a year or two. Greenside has spent enough time there that you think he Greenside presents a familiar tale of visiting France, falling in love with it, and purchasing a home there. You know the type, the American who buys a 100+ year old house, and then shortly thereafter writes a book about his experiences. The difference in this book is that he has continued spending his summers there for around twenty five years. The book draws on much deeper details than one of someone who has only been there a year or two. Greenside has spent enough time there that you think he should practically be a native, but, as he very capably describes, that hasn't happened. He admits the terrible time he has with the French language. The adventures in driving. The surprises he finds when needing medical attention, or dealing with banking. And the best part of all, the food. It seems the author is willing to eat anything! His descriptions make the book worth it by themselves. Through the years, he has found a core group of friends in France who are willing to help the American. With their help, he survives, maybe even thrives. He is unflinching in his descriptions of his mistakes, as well as the successes. In what I think makes a book a sucess, is the fact that I really think the author is someone who I could be friends with, who I can relate to, and who I would enjoy exploring with. To me, that is what I really want in a book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Denis Clifford

    (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living is superb, enchanting, and very, very funny—a must for lovers of France and for all who love to laugh. Author Mark Greenside, owner of a house in a small town in Brittany for over twenty years, recounts hilarious, insightful tales of his efforts to understand and negotiate cultural differences between the U. S. and France. He’s a good-hearted innocent, akin to Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati, bumbling and charming his way through numerous obstacles F (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living is superb, enchanting, and very, very funny—a must for lovers of France and for all who love to laugh. Author Mark Greenside, owner of a house in a small town in Brittany for over twenty years, recounts hilarious, insightful tales of his efforts to understand and negotiate cultural differences between the U. S. and France. He’s a good-hearted innocent, akin to Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati, bumbling and charming his way through numerous obstacles France presents him. The heart of the book are chapters on his experiences with basic French living: driving, shopping, money, eating, cooking & entertaining, health care, and speaking French. Each chapter recounts often-highly-amusing stories of apparently-simple transactions becoming complicated and baffling. For example, In Paris he goes to his bank, Crédit Agricole, ”a national bank—international, one of the largest in the world,” to get 1000s euros. He is told he can only take out 800 euros. The banker “gives me a long explanation, which I take to mean, ‘That’s how it is.’” So he accepts the 800. But wait—the banker leaves and comes back with an older colleague, who tells Mark he can only have 400 euros. Why? Because he lives in Brittany. If he lived in Nice or Paris, he could get a larger amount. As Mark writes, “Surprise is my new routine.” The writing is excellent—fluid, witty, and perceptive. Some examples: * “In France, a nation whose people lack the chromosome for line-formation.” So True—the French never form lines. They make wedges. “Wedges of people everywhere: movie theaters, supermarkets, post office, banks, bathrooms.” Why this aversion to lines? Mark doesn’t waste time speculating. His book presents French realities, not theories about them. * “Every French man I know is more capable than I am with things mechanical, electrical, and physical. Something breaks, they fix it.” How do French men learn that? * “A pudding cake that would be banned by the American Heart Association if it knew it existed.” Ah, French desserts. * “In the U. S. People say, ‘What do you do for a living?’ meaning ‘what’s your job.’ In France people talk about life and living the good life and never once does it refer to work.” Another appealing aspect of French culture. * “Any more alcohol and I’ll be anti-freeze.” After many drinks during a seven course dinner. * “Cheese is a basic food group in France.” True. Mark’s love of Brittany and les gens de Bretagne (the Bretons) shines through. From his first days there, he fell under its spell: “its shimmering light, white cotton candy clouds, and blue-green sea…” His neighbor, Madame P is “the knower of everything I needed to know, my first friend and future Aladdin and guardian angel.” Even quirks of Brittany culture are endearing. How to pay people for work done on Mark’s house? “Ask for a bill too soon and the transaction becomes commercial.” But “wait too long and there’s an unspoken fear I might forget. The timing has to be just right.” Learning that “just right” is a sophisticated art that Mark describes In exquisite detail. Mark’s struggles speaking French are funny and illuminating. Slip just a bit and he’s said something silly. Entering a hotel, Mark says, “Je voudrais une chambre pour un noir avec un lait.” Literally, “I’d like a room for a black with milk.” He should have said “nuit’ for “night” and “lit” for “bed.” Even familiar words can be deceiving. “In American English, mercantile means commercial. In French it means money-grabbing.” Then there’s the puzzle of the two forms of “you” —the formal “vous” and the familiar ”tu.” No French speaker can tell Mark rules for when to use either. You just sorta gotta know. Every page of (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living offers delights—it’s a rich plum-pudding of a book. Mark is a whimsical, spirited, and appreciative participant in daily French life, including its oddities. One last example: ¬shower curtains. Mark writes, “For some reason I will never understand, until very recently, most French homes, hotels, B & Bs, gites and chambres d’hotes had no shower curtain or doors.” To this francophile reviewer, no-shower-curtains remains one of the most puzzling aspects of France. a mystery Mark doesn’t try to fathom. Among the many joys of (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living is the unexpected, gracious help Mark often receives from French people, both friends and strangers. He returns their empathy, often leading to genuine connection. His humor never sinks to put-downs. His book left me thinking how wonderful it would be to have a life in France as rich as his is.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Richard M.

    In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child quantified and organized what had often been culturally traditional and instinctual ways of preparing food so that stay-at-home Americans could enjoy the culinary pleasures she had experienced when she first moved to France with her husband after World War II. With her title, Child reinforced the already acknowledged view that the French took cooking seriously enough to elevate it to an art. As many of her recipes showed, however, that elevatio In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child quantified and organized what had often been culturally traditional and instinctual ways of preparing food so that stay-at-home Americans could enjoy the culinary pleasures she had experienced when she first moved to France with her husband after World War II. With her title, Child reinforced the already acknowledged view that the French took cooking seriously enough to elevate it to an art. As many of her recipes showed, however, that elevation was not reached without a lot of time, knowledge, and study – it had to be mastered. There were unimagined pleasures to be had at table, but only for those who were willing to put in the necessary effort—or knew someone else who was. Mark Greenside’s new book, (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living, definitely suggests that the French, or at least some of them, have applied the same approach to life. It can be good, rich, and healthy, but only for those who are willing to work at it. He doesn’t try to explain how Americans might accomplish the same thing here in the States. For him, you have to go to France to experience it. Many of the anecdotes from his two decades of living in a small town in western France deal with cultural differences and how he learned to deal with them: the frustrations (for Americans) of figuring out French road signage, the complications and restrictions of French banking rules, the fact that efficiency and speed are not high priorities, etc. Sometimes Greenside triumphs on his own through sheer persistence, but often it’s thanks to the patient help of some French person who takes him literally by the hand to guide him on his way. And, sometimes, he fails, which he blames on himself and not the French. Sometimes, too, the better he gets to know parts of French life, especially life in the provinces far from Paris, the more he comes to appreciate it. He has unabashed admiration for the French national healthcare system. He is continually surprised by the social cohesion he sees in his area of western Brittany: the residents often have the opportunity to take advantage of each other, but they just don’t. That same respect for social interaction also explains, however, why so many things take so much longer than they would here in the States. There are a lot of very funny scenes in this book, many of them revolving around food. One of my favorites was his encounter with two busloads of retirees at a grilled pig banquet. There is also his first encounter with andouille (pig intestines), which smell of what they are. Not surprisingly, much of the book deals with Greenside’s encounters with food that most of us never see in the United States. Sometimes the idea of what it is repulses him. He learns to eat first and ask later. My favorite parts of the book are those that recount his interactions with the French, because they are infallibly written with tolerance and appreciation. Yes, the French sometimes do things that make no sense to us. But so often, they are willing to go out of their way – sometimes considerably out of their way – to help this American with minimal French and often even less understanding of how things work in France. You’ll get a lot of laughs out of this book, but it’s never done with an attempt to degrade what is different just because that’s not how we do it here in the States.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan Keefe

    After reading Mark Greenside’s first and extremely entertaining book, ‘I’ll Never Be French (No Matter What I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany, I couldn’t wait to start this one, and I was not disappointed! The first book tells how in 1991 a reluctant Mark agrees to visit Brittany with a girlfriend, and how that visit sparked a love affair with France and in particular with a small village in Finistère, Brittany. Now, over twenty years later American Mark spends his summers in France. Alt After reading Mark Greenside’s first and extremely entertaining book, ‘I’ll Never Be French (No Matter What I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany, I couldn’t wait to start this one, and I was not disappointed! The first book tells how in 1991 a reluctant Mark agrees to visit Brittany with a girlfriend, and how that visit sparked a love affair with France and in particular with a small village in Finistère, Brittany. Now, over twenty years later American Mark spends his summers in France. Although a story, right from the first page this book is jam packed with essential information for anyone visiting France or living there, in fact, I think it should be mandatory reading. The trials and tribulations of the autoroutes and the attitude of French drivers, queues anywhere, the sometimes unusual food are highlighted. Everyday life, and the myriad of other obstacles and situations that an unsuspecting expat discovers and has to overcome are reviewed. What did I personally enjoy about the book? Well it is hard to choose, there were so many enjoyable scenarios portrayed throughout. For example, shopping is a real eye-opener here and one is wise to remember the immortal line in the wonderful film ‘A Good Life’ – “In France the customer is always wrong.” Many of the stories are very amusing, especially Mark’s shopping trolley incident, it brought back memories of our early days when I tried to take a shopping trolley off an elderly gentleman to save him walking it back. He looked at me as if I was mad, it must have seemed to him I was trying to steal the euro in the little slot which I didn’t know about as we didn’t have them where I came from. There is also no truer sentence written than ‘buy what you like when you see it and buy in bulk.’ It never fails to astound me that the shops finish a run on a popular product never to stock it again. I just loved his take on life here, it is wonderful, but also quirky in many respects. I have been told countless times that it is like England 30 years ago, and it is, people take time to get to know you but then will do anything for you. Village life and neighbours are very important, as is supporting local businesses and products. However every day you are reminded you are not in your homeland when at 12 noon the world stops for lunch, and ten minutes before – the roads become race tracks. At the beginning I said that this book should be essential reading and I really believe it should be. Notwithstanding the incredible volume of information it contains, perhaps the most important thing is the wonderful way the author has brought to life his experiences in the beautiful country of France and the generous nature of its inhabitants.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Zahra Azzazi

    What if you packed up all of your belongings and moved to a country that was completely alien to you? Living in a new country is a unique experience, but it is definitely an amazing experience that everyone should try. That is what Mark Greenside, a former teacher and a newcomer to the country of France, declares in his newest nonfiction memoir, (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living. Greenside proves his assertion by describing his experience living in France. He supports his argument b What if you packed up all of your belongings and moved to a country that was completely alien to you? Living in a new country is a unique experience, but it is definitely an amazing experience that everyone should try. That is what Mark Greenside, a former teacher and a newcomer to the country of France, declares in his newest nonfiction memoir, (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living. Greenside proves his assertion by describing his experience living in France. He supports his argument by comparing and contrasting life in France versus life in the United States to affirm that living in France is different, but it is very interesting. In a different country from your own, there are many different ways of doing ordinary things, and Greenside does an exceptional job of organizing his argument into mini-topics in order to compare and contrast life in France to life in the US (i.e. money, cars, shopping). This book used many examples to show that, and then proved the overall point that a new system of doing things may take a while to get used to, but it is a fascinating opportunity to add excitement to one’s life. At first, it’s like living in a parallel universe: everything that one would do inherently in their home country is so much different than that of a new country. While reading, I frequently thought to myself: “I never thought about it that way” and “Why don't we do that here?” Anyone who really wants to know what it’s like to reside in an unfamiliar place should read this book. It is very interesting, provides a plethora of information on what one may experience while living somewhere different, and it uses several examples to confirm the claim that living in a new country is an experience that everyone should try at least once.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Crisci

    Anyone who’s ever driven, eaten, shopped, or has been ill in France will recognize the authenticity of this screamingly funny book about trying to fit it, and almost—but not quite—succeeding. Reading this book on the subway in New York City presented a real challenge for me, as it made me laugh uncontrollably for considerably long stretches. Unlike the French, who will try not to notice if you are making a fool of yourself in public, New Yorkers will stare at you while trying to determine your s Anyone who’s ever driven, eaten, shopped, or has been ill in France will recognize the authenticity of this screamingly funny book about trying to fit it, and almost—but not quite—succeeding. Reading this book on the subway in New York City presented a real challenge for me, as it made me laugh uncontrollably for considerably long stretches. Unlike the French, who will try not to notice if you are making a fool of yourself in public, New Yorkers will stare at you while trying to determine your sanity. At least, that’s the reaction I got as I tried to bury myself in the book while riding to my destination. A few times I had to close the book because there was no other way to stifle the laughter. This book is for anybody who is traveling to, has traveled to, or would like to travel to France. The book’s title is (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living, but it becomes evident soon enough that Greenside has indeed (nearly) mastered it. What shines through the humor is the reverence Greenside has for the French and their customs. He pokes fun at them, but usually the tables turn and he ends up poking fun at himself, as when he shopped in the supermarket, refusing to use a cart because he thought it cost one euro to rent one. After much indignation and several futile attempts to devise alternative methods, he discovered the truth: you get your money back when you return the cart to the proper place. Greenside’s book is filled with hilarious anecdotes and wacky stories, all pointing to one thing: his love of France and his gratitude towards his French friends. I’ll probably read it again, or at least excerpts, before any trips I take to France in the future.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Leon Krier

    On the "Funnyside" of the "Pond" Having now read both “I’ll Never Be French No Matter How Hard I Try” and “(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living,” I clearly realize that traveling in France as a tourist (my wife and I have done 5 trips on our own having stayed in 12 cities and visited well over 30 other towns/villages) and embracing a commitment to everyday living is comparable to snorkeling just under the ocean surface and scuba diving to far greater depths of risky adventures. Hey, wai On the "Funnyside" of the "Pond" Having now read both “I’ll Never Be French No Matter How Hard I Try” and “(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living,” I clearly realize that traveling in France as a tourist (my wife and I have done 5 trips on our own having stayed in 12 cities and visited well over 30 other towns/villages) and embracing a commitment to everyday living is comparable to snorkeling just under the ocean surface and scuba diving to far greater depths of risky adventures. Hey, wait a minute, buying a home and being “not quite French” might even be going down to the ocean floor in a bathysphere. But I’m ahead of myself. The context for reading (Not Quite) is definitely relevant to ordering this book as soon as possible. My wife and I just returned from our 14th visit to Santa Fe and we always like reading a book as we do a road trip. (Not Quite) was our choice for this adventure. Marks comparisons of French and American cultures are both acutely insightful and and yet affirming of each (no put-downs here), but best of all is that they are presented with such wit, imagery and references that we were constantly in a state of laughter…not just a chuckle but “therapeutic laughter” that kept us mentally alert for the drive. We even chose to read the book to each other in our hotel room rather than watch “nothingness” on cable TV. If you’re touched by the wonders of France and French culture, have fantasized putting down even shallow roots, or want to take a full 90 day blitz (given Euro-zone rules), (Not Quite) will either sober you up or motivate you to dig your toes in for a “breath-defying” challenge. C'est la vie!!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    (Not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living is a book written by an American who spends his summers in Brittany, France and how he gets on there and the nuances between the cultures he has found. It covers a number of topics from Money, Shopping, Driving, Food and needing Medical Assistance. Each chapter gives an account of things that have happened to the author during his summer visits, and learning about the culture. There are also "10 things I've learnt" at the end of each chapter that are (Not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living is a book written by an American who spends his summers in Brittany, France and how he gets on there and the nuances between the cultures he has found. It covers a number of topics from Money, Shopping, Driving, Food and needing Medical Assistance. Each chapter gives an account of things that have happened to the author during his summer visits, and learning about the culture. There are also "10 things I've learnt" at the end of each chapter that are even more things he has picked up rather than a round up of the chapter. This is a book that had me laughing from time to time as his use of French meant once he asked for a chocolate ice cream on female genitalia instead of a cone or that one of his french friends looked at his attempts of serving a salad, or balsamic vingear with disgust and like poo! I've certainly learnt a lot about our French neighbours across the English channel that I was not aware of, such as seven courses are expected when inviting friends for dinner (how many!?) or after a car accident the vehicle will be repaired in three days (blimey thats quick) and after a hospital stay, rather than being sent home to recuperate, you are sent to a seaside hospital to recover (something we certainly would never do in the UK). If you are looking for a book about what it means to live in or even visit France, then this is a great book to give you the flavour of what its like and how to make you look less of a fool during your stay. I received this book from netgalley in return for a honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Keith Sickle

    This book is funny as heck. I like to read a book before going to sleep but my wife wouldn’t let me with this one because I kept laughing so hard I was shaking the bed. Mark Greenside is an American who spends every summer in a house he bought in a tiny village in Brittany. Somehow, despite living part-time in France for decades, he has not managed to learn the language. This leads to inevitable mishaps, all of which he describes in a hilarious style. As he puts it, “If you’re lucky, some of the This book is funny as heck. I like to read a book before going to sleep but my wife wouldn’t let me with this one because I kept laughing so hard I was shaking the bed. Mark Greenside is an American who spends every summer in a house he bought in a tiny village in Brittany. Somehow, despite living part-time in France for decades, he has not managed to learn the language. This leads to inevitable mishaps, all of which he describes in a hilarious style. As he puts it, “If you’re lucky, some of the things that happened to me will happen to you. If you’re luckier, they won’t.” We learn what happens when you accidentally end up in the middle of a combination pig roast / talent show with a busload of elderly French tourists. And what it is like to try and fail (yet again) to prepare a meal that satisfies your French neighbors. There are funny stories about shopping, banking, driving (including a car accident that turns out surprisingly well) and more. Mark has an engaging style that allows him to tell these and other stories with humor and humility. As someone who lives part-time in France myself, I think that Mark has done an especially good job at describing the cultural differences between France and the United States. And I was touched when he talked about his French friends, people with whom he can barely have a conversation, yet who have become “people I care about and who care about me.” If you are looking for a book about France that is thoughtful, heartfelt and really, really funny, this is one you won’t want to miss. Highly recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ashwini Abhyankar

    I was kindly given an ARC of this book by Edelweiss for an honest review in return. When I looked at the cover of this book, I was immediately drawn in. Yes, I know, don't judge the book by its cover. In this case, however, both the cover and the book were fantastic and worthy of being judged. Gosh, what can I say about this book? From the very beginning, it sets a lively, humorous tone. I loved the way the author wrote his experiences in France, with the way he wasn't quite there with the langu I was kindly given an ARC of this book by Edelweiss for an honest review in return. When I looked at the cover of this book, I was immediately drawn in. Yes, I know, don't judge the book by its cover. In this case, however, both the cover and the book were fantastic and worthy of being judged. Gosh, what can I say about this book? From the very beginning, it sets a lively, humorous tone. I loved the way the author wrote his experiences in France, with the way he wasn't quite there with the language, the culture itself. How he messed up his interactions multiple times in various horrifying yet hilarious ways. His approach towards the whole thing made it a really enjoyable read. I must say that I wasn't expecting to laugh quite so many times but I did. Genuine laugh out loud moments. He's very honest about his failures in his language, and how much he's become adventurous when it comes to food because of the French people. The way he is constantly surprised by the different and sometimes better ways of doing things in France. I am so glad he has friends who are French and help him out because otherwise, oh boy. I have to admit that I hadn't really read anything like this before but I guess I started with a bang in this genre because boy, this book is fun! It's a delightful read and seriously, I feel like everybody should give this one a chance, there would be no regrets.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rob Liddiard

    This charming book about living in France for a couple of months every year (for a quarter of a century!) is the second work I have read by author Mark Greenside. The first one I tackled, I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do), made me smile from the very first page...and I didn't stop much of that smiling throughout the whole thing. Similarly, (not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living provides a delightful start to the read and proceeds to underscore what an accessible writer Mr. Green This charming book about living in France for a couple of months every year (for a quarter of a century!) is the second work I have read by author Mark Greenside. The first one I tackled, I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do), made me smile from the very first page...and I didn't stop much of that smiling throughout the whole thing. Similarly, (not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living provides a delightful start to the read and proceeds to underscore what an accessible writer Mr. Greenside is. He is both insightful and informative. I am a French professor, so I very much appreciate the commentary about France and the French from that standpoint; however I believe anyone can relate to the author's informative wit (he is quite adept at subtle, and occasionally not-so-subtle humor) and creative prose about being a foreigner, yet feeling completely enthralled, grateful, and sometimes even overwhelmed in a search to becoming accepted as a true "native by adoption" into the francophone world...by literally living there a good portion of each year. I would love to be so lucky as to have an annual 60-day retreat to France. Mark has certainly made the most of his decision to becoming immersed in French culture, and it is great that he has decided to share his experience with the rest of us. Reading about his fun, challenging, and sometimes difficult adventure in Brittany is well worth the price of admission. I enjoyed it immensely.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Many books by expats who have bought a house abroad focus on the travails of renovating the house; unexpected expenses, dealing with local contractors, etc. This book instead focuses on life abroad. If you've wondered about the cultural differences between the US and France then this book goes a long way towards describing them. Mark Greenside has owned a house in France (Brittany) for over 20 years and here you will find stories describing the differences in shopping, friendship, banking, appro Many books by expats who have bought a house abroad focus on the travails of renovating the house; unexpected expenses, dealing with local contractors, etc. This book instead focuses on life abroad. If you've wondered about the cultural differences between the US and France then this book goes a long way towards describing them. Mark Greenside has owned a house in France (Brittany) for over 20 years and here you will find stories describing the differences in shopping, friendship, banking, approach to food, medical care, to name but a few areas he covers. The ones I find most interesting are the ones about expectations in conduct; Mark gets in a car accident, for example, and the other party takes it on faith that he will show up to create the accident report and that after he leaves with the only copy of it that he will mail it in. Things aren't always better in France; we take it for granted we can readily access money when traveling from another branch of our bank but the French system has different ideas. The book is written in a humorous tone but underneath the humor you will find distinctions drawn between the way we assume things ought to be done and a society with completely different assumptions. One benefit of travel is said to be seeing other cultures that have equally valid and reasonable ways of life; ours is not the only way to do things. This book lets you get a sense of some of these differences without the jetlag.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This was not as good as his first book, and I think I just wanted a continuation of that. But that's not what he had in mind. His first book I'll Never Be French (No Matter How Hard I Try) was a great story of a vacation in France that led, quite surprisingly, to buying a house there, when the author owned nothing but an old Volkswagen. He broke up with the girlfriend that induced him to go to France in the first place. It was a fun venture with him. This book is about eating, talking, being sic This was not as good as his first book, and I think I just wanted a continuation of that. But that's not what he had in mind. His first book I'll Never Be French (No Matter How Hard I Try) was a great story of a vacation in France that led, quite surprisingly, to buying a house there, when the author owned nothing but an old Volkswagen. He broke up with the girlfriend that induced him to go to France in the first place. It was a fun venture with him. This book is about eating, talking, being sick, etc, in France, and how things differ from the US. Which IS interesting, and some of which I have found is true. We all tend to gravitate toward the negative, and somehow this comes off as negative, but it really isn't---he is about 50/50 on US-France benefits. Some of the differences are amazing, like French medicine. I think it has to be experienced to be believed! Americans are so suspicious of socialism, but I tell you---this medicine gig is genius! But I wanted to hear more about his house and his town, and the wife he married between books....he does give stories of various happenings---car accidents, slip ups in language, dinner parties, but it wasn't enough to make me feel like I was in the middle of a story. The book wasn't purported to be, but somehow, I just expected it to be like the first one. My fault! Mark Greenside IS funny! And I really liked his insights at the end about his US self, and his childlike French self.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sylvie

    Unlike so many (expat) memoirs, this book is worth cutting down a tree for! This is like a rich truffle in a genre engorged with cheesy (not even brie) formulaic takes on the experience of being the muddled foreigner. Mark Greenside struggles to understand Breton culture as seen through the lens of a streetwise New Yorker, declaring with some regularity, "This would never happen in the U.S.", but the judgement comes more from bewilderment rather than as negative criticism. All the while he maint Unlike so many (expat) memoirs, this book is worth cutting down a tree for! This is like a rich truffle in a genre engorged with cheesy (not even brie) formulaic takes on the experience of being the muddled foreigner. Mark Greenside struggles to understand Breton culture as seen through the lens of a streetwise New Yorker, declaring with some regularity, "This would never happen in the U.S.", but the judgement comes more from bewilderment rather than as negative criticism. All the while he maintains a pure and child-like state of mind that make his discoveries and mishaps endearing, and laugh out loud funny, avec beaucoup de force (note: think twice about reading this next to your soundly sleeping partner). Each chapter highlights a specific subject -- driving, shopping, eating, etc. --all summed up with handy lists of ten lessons he learned on each subject; he is after all a teacher by trade. I recommend reading the prequel, I'll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do), followed by this solid sequel, published by Skyhorse Publishing, who, by the way, also put out Tidy the F*ck Up: The American Art of Organizing Your Sh*t by Messie Condo (c'est vrai). I look forward to reading that next...while waiting for Monsieur Greenside to continuer son histoire!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Luke Johnson

    (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living is the memoir of an American who after a visit to France and falling in love with the country, buys a house and spends, I think, half of each year there. Okay cool, like "Under The Tuscan Sun" but in France right? Uh, no. I picked this up based on the food heavy cover thinking it would full of tales of eating buttery, flaky croissants and drinking bottles of pouilly fume, etc. Instead, we just have the author being (even though he says he's not) pre (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living is the memoir of an American who after a visit to France and falling in love with the country, buys a house and spends, I think, half of each year there. Okay cool, like "Under The Tuscan Sun" but in France right? Uh, no. I picked this up based on the food heavy cover thinking it would full of tales of eating buttery, flaky croissants and drinking bottles of pouilly fume, etc. Instead, we just have the author being (even though he says he's not) pretty much a cut and dry "Ugly American". The book begins with the author complaining about traffic roundabouts, and then moves on to everything from shopping carts, lamp and shoes salesmen, corn on the cob, multi-course meals, the French language itself, and by the book airline cafe workers. The only positive thing he sees is the French healthcare system. Everything else he whines about. So if you want to read 270 pages of an entitled American making life miserable for sales person all around him because HE doesn't know the culture, go ahead and give this one a try.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mas

    If you were expecting a picturesque, elegant narrative about life in France, (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living is not it. Well, that’s a bit obvious in the title. What the book is about is the author’s misadventures in French living. Or how he tries to master the art of French living by spending his summers in a house he bought in the countryside, in the small Breton town of Plobien. It’s a humorous take on ordinary, everyday life in France as a foreigner who can’t quite master the F If you were expecting a picturesque, elegant narrative about life in France, (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living is not it. Well, that’s a bit obvious in the title. What the book is about is the author’s misadventures in French living. Or how he tries to master the art of French living by spending his summers in a house he bought in the countryside, in the small Breton town of Plobien. It’s a humorous take on ordinary, everyday life in France as a foreigner who can’t quite master the French language. The author covers a lot --- driving, shopping, money and banking, food, cooking, health, medicine, hospitals, and of course, the language. While bravely conversing with the locals in French, he often ends up in lost in translation situations. And, his neighbors, who have become his trusted friends, come to his rescue. (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living is a fun, enjoyable read. Advanced reader copy from Netgalley.com

  29. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    France is full of surprises. It’s a country where a fresh chicken costs about the same amount of money as a visit to your home by an actual doctor at around midnight for a cough that keeps you up at night (and is reimbursed by the national healthcare system after you submit the bill) . They eat horse meat there, which really made me wonder if they raise horses solely for that purpose, and spend hours eating meals. In fact, it seems as if all jobs have 2 hour lunch breaks. I love memoirs like thi France is full of surprises. It’s a country where a fresh chicken costs about the same amount of money as a visit to your home by an actual doctor at around midnight for a cough that keeps you up at night (and is reimbursed by the national healthcare system after you submit the bill) . They eat horse meat there, which really made me wonder if they raise horses solely for that purpose, and spend hours eating meals. In fact, it seems as if all jobs have 2 hour lunch breaks. I love memoirs like this that are filled with so many fascinating facts about the differences between our way of life in the United States and the way other people live around the world. This book is well written and funny. The only thing that bothered me is that the author added a lot of French words and conversations, some he translated, others not, so I did feel as if I might be missing something or could have had a deeper appreciation for this if I could understand the meaning without looking up words.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Allen Witt

    For the first few chapters, I was determined not to like this book. Writing in the first person, the author gloried in being the "ugly American", annoyed that Brittany was not exactly like California. I started to move my Kindle to another book several times, but somehow kept coming back for just one more page. The enticement was the language. Despite the annoying persona, the verbal antics were the literary answer to screwball comedy. As a guy who grew up on Cary Grant, the banter-- with himsel For the first few chapters, I was determined not to like this book. Writing in the first person, the author gloried in being the "ugly American", annoyed that Brittany was not exactly like California. I started to move my Kindle to another book several times, but somehow kept coming back for just one more page. The enticement was the language. Despite the annoying persona, the verbal antics were the literary answer to screwball comedy. As a guy who grew up on Cary Grant, the banter-- with himself and half of Brittany--was hard to put down. Then, about half way through, the world view changed. Brittany sucked our hero into its charming otherness. With every page he became less outraged and more intrigued. After that point, he quickly became and fellow traveler sharing "war stories "-- except that his were insightful and so terribly funny. Loved the book. Hope he has extra space on the couch in Brittany.

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