Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book review of C'est Modnifique by Ian Moore

My review today is for C'est Modnifique!: Adventures of an English Grump in Rural France the second memoir about life in France from Ian Moore. You can read my review of his first book A la Mod: My So-Called Tranquil Family Life in Rural France (which I really recommend reading) here.

French Village Diaries book review C'est Modnifique Ian Moore
C'est Modnifique Ian Moore
This is another funny instalment of life in rural France for Ian, his wife Natalie and his family of misbehaving animals and growing boys. After six years of life in the Loire their plans are taking shape, but life never really goes to plan, especially when you find yourself amidst madness like gun wielding neighbours. In his uniquely humorous writing, Ian treats us to all the best bits of his life in France including; medical appointments, vet visits, school life, travelling mishaps and the mad locals. I laughed out loud a lot.

For Ian, life is full of battles that have turned him into a real Mr Grumpy. He battles against a family determined to go against his wishes and add more animals, noise and chaos to his life. He battles against himself as he can’t help but miss the noise and chaos when work takes him away from home and then there is the age-old battle of the work/home life balance. Some people are never happy and I doubt peace will ever reign inside Ian’s head especially as his goats appear to have given him gout and his courgettes (zucchini) refuse to produce fruiting female flowers - ha ha ha!

Living a similar life I can appreciate the issues behind the humour and while I may feel a bit sorry for poor Ian, his wife Natalie is the real hero of the book for me keeping family life ticking over no matter what is thrown her way. For those of us who love a light-hearted look at the good and the bad of family life in France this book is must read.

You can follow Ian’s via his blog, on Facebook and Twitter and read my France et Moi interview with him here.

A la Mod: My So-Called Tranquil Family Life in Rural France and C'est Modnifique!: Adventures of an English Grump in Rural France are available in paperback and ebook from all good book sellers and links to Amazon are below. Thanks to the publishers Summersdale who kindly sent me a review copy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A French village in hibernation

French Village diaries hibernation cats
Hibernating cat
Despite the mildest November we have experienced (and this is our 11th) I have a feeling that our village has already entered into its period of winter hibernation. This is not my favourite time of year and the idea of hiding away until spring is very appealing however there is plenty going on in the run up to Christmas to keep me busy, but where is everyone else?

Last Friday I attended a meeting the Maire had set up to find out what the adolescents in the village would like the council to do for them. Invitations were personally delivered to all aged 11 to 18 (about 20) but unfortunately the only one to turn up was Ed and if I’m honest it was because I told him he had to! (I really am that mean parent). I had the usual grumps as we walked down to the meeting; why do I have to go? I don’t want to hang around with any of the other kids in the village. I don’t want anything except faster Internet. How long will it last? etc

I felt so sorry for him as all eyes were on him as we arrived and if looks could kill I may well have dropped dead as he walked into the salle des fêtes and had his choice of empty seats. It could have been a lively evening where ideas were discussed, taken note of and plans put into place. Instead, it was a little awkward until his ruffled feathers were smoothed with the Coke and apero nibbles that came out afterwards and he began to feel important rather than intimidated by the attention. Our Maire looked on the bright side; we had the youth development officer who presented the project the local town are planning and she was impressed that we are the only commune in the canton to start thinking about what we can do for our youth. But where were our youth?

French Village diaries hibernation bourse aux jouets
Bourse aux jouets - toy sale
Last Sunday we held a successful bourse aux jouets (second hand toy sale) in the village salle des fêtes. I was very impressed with the number of good quality toys piled up on the tables, ready and waiting for their new families. However, not one seller was a family from our village and although there were some local faces out searching for a bargain, most were from outside our commune, which I think was a shame. Where was everyone?

French Village diaries hibernation telethon volunteers
Village volunteers

We are usually busy at this time of year organising a charity meal for the first Friday of December as part of the nationwide Téléthon fundraising weekend. However at the meeting a few weeks ago to plan the details only eight people turned up and half of them were the four of us organising it! I was confident that we would be able to manage, as it is something we have done many times before, but the general opinion was that if no one could be bothered to come along to the meeting who would come along on the night. Costs would also be higher, meaning less money raised, as usually all the vegetables are donated by local farmers and potager growers, but with none of them at the meeting there were no guarantees of free produce this year. I know I’m not the only one who thinks it is a shame it isn’t going ahead. It has always been a lively, fun evening with a great atmosphere, but it needs the support of the villagers to make happen and at the moment it seems they’ve all gone into hibernation. Roll on spring.

Monday, November 24, 2014

My French garden Living France feature

French Village Diaries Living France Magazine December 2014 My French Garden feature
Living France December 2014
The December issue of Living France magazine is on the shelves now and as I was lucky enough to be featured in the gardening section I was sent an e-copy which I enjoyed reading this weekend. 

I’m sure you will want to pop out and pick up a copy just to see pictures of me lovingly cradling one of my super-sized squash and talking about how being a nosy neighbour can help with your gardening, but if that’s not enough to persuade you, there are also more interesting things like:

  • Where to visit this December, including Lyon’s Fête des Lumières which looks so pretty. Note to self; I must get to Lyon one day.
  • An in-depth look at the Haute Pyrennes.
  • The delicious butteriness that is the Galette des Rois.
  • Plus lots of practical information on property ownership and living in France.

If you can’t find it for sale near you, you can purchase it online by following this link here.

Happy reading.

French Village Diaries My French Garden Living France Magazine feature December 2014
My French Garden Living France Magazine

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book review of A Week in Paris by Rachel Hore

My review today is for A Week in Paris the latest novel from Rachel Hore.

French Village Diaries book review A Week in Paris Rachel Hore The Occupation
This is an historical novel set in Paris in 1937, in the years during The Occupation and in the 1960’s. When pianist Kitty Travers arrives in 1937 to study at the Conservatoire she has no idea her life is about to change forever. She meets an American doctor, they fall in love, get married and just as their family is settling into life in Paris war breaks out. Her life soon becomes a struggle for survival in a time of lies, secrets and injustices.

In the 1960’s, violinist Fay Knox arrives in Paris to tour with her orchestra for a week. Paris feels familiar despite her barely knowing the city and it isn’t long before she starts to unlock a dark secret that threatens to rock her childhood and make her question her memories and her Mother’s decisions. However, will discovering the truth help her Mother recover from a breakdown?

This book quickly became a real page-turner as we jumped from the sixties to the war years and back again. The characters were strong, likable and I really enjoyed the sense of mystery that slowly unravelled throughout the book. Paris portrayed at her difficult times came alive and there was a great link between the injustices of The Occupation and the Algerian issues of the sixties. I’m sure any lovers of historical fiction, especially the Second World War, would love this novel.

A Week in Paris is available in paperback and ebook format. Links to Amazon can be found below.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book review of Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat

French Village Diaries book review Wolfsangel Liza Perrat the Occupation FranceMy review today is for Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat, a page turning, passionate historical novel set amidst the hardship and secrecy of a village in German occupied France.

Céleste Roussel has to grow up fast. Her father has left to work in the German camps on the promise of wages to be sent home – money the family never receive. Her brother is arrested for resistance crimes and then the Germans mysteriously release her mother, despite evidence of illegal ‘healer’ activity. Céleste has a strained relationship with her mother but is desperate to help her brother and persuades those in charge to allow her to assist the resistance. Although they are reluctant she becomes a Red Cross volunteer working in the hospitals in Lyon as her cover and assumes a secret identity.

Céleste Roussel has to grow up fast. Martin, a German officer billeted in the village falls for her. She confesses this to her sister, a nun at a local convent where there are many hidden secrets, and she is encouraged to befriend Martin and use their relationship for information. However, can she cope with the depth of their feelings? Can she trust herself with the enemy? Can she ever fully trust him? Living a life with two secret parts proves to be a lonely challenge for Céleste but a carved bone angel talisman that has been passed down the generations to her offers her comfort and reassurance.

This was a time when people were living with secrecy, deception and daily hardships, as a village against the occupying enemy but at times against each other too. Liza’s writing brought these difficult times to life.

In this novel, Liza shows the resourcefulness that was demanded during the occupation and the inner strength and deceit that was necessary for survival. She highlights the fact that no one knew who to trust and that the need for secrecy become normal for so many during these years when village life changed so dramatically. As we meet the elderly Céleste at the beginning of the book, riddled with guilt following her actions during the occupation, I was always expecting the consequences to be disastrous but there were still unexpected plot twists right up to the end of the book. If reading about France during The Occupation fascinates you, this book is for you.

Wolfsangel is the second book in the L’Auberge des Anges series although I read it without having read book one, Spirit of Lost Angels set during the French Revolution. Both books are available in paperback and ebook format and links to Amazon can be found below. Liza is currently working on the third book.