Wednesday, 8 May 2019

A Stranger in Paris by Karen Webb


Review by JJ Marsh

What we thought:

What could have been a dull memoir of any British au-pair arriving in France is given a sincere emotional charge by an exceptional heroine. 

The naïvete of the gauche yet observant nanny makes the reader both cringe and smile. The gossamer hopes of her romances set against the expectations of the household set up moments of delight and sadness.

This is a hiccupy, awkward and yet charming insight into the British abroad. There are times when you want to give almost every character a shake. The nuances of cultural difference are mountains not molehills to this young woman. Overconfident, underprepared but always optimistic, our heroine stumbles from situation to situation, slipping from the dangerous to the futile with blithe belief. 

The characterisation is uneven but when it works, the personae leap off the page. Most importantly, this book conveys the pumice stone of cultural interaction. Travelling changes people, almost always for the better. The gradual acclimatisation is a joy. Those were the days. 

This book should be compulsory reading for school-leavers across the UK. More now than ever.



You’ll enjoy this if you liked: A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle or When in Rome by Penelope Green

Avoid if you don’t like: Naïve young Brits, student life, cultural confusion

Ideal accompaniments: Cheap red wine, Chinese takeaway and this version of I Love Paris by Zaz.


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