I’ve read some amazing books on France – notably, Graham Robb’s Discovery of France and his Parisians. Long live travel writing! But there’s been some horrors, too. Ah, the thwarted promise of Tim Moore’s French Revolutions (cycling and France, what can go wrong? Much, it seems).
So, it’s hard not to feel a little bit sceptical when one finds a new addition to the canon. It seems I’m not alone in my cynicism. John Crace in his (often comically irreverent) ‘Digested Reads’ series for The Guardian compresses Pamela Druckerman’s story of why she thinks French children are better behaved. Writing as if from Druckerman’s perspective, he chimes:
I came to motherhood late and, being a hack and not having much work on, I naturally decided to write a book about it. All I needed was an angle. And then I remembered I was living in France and could pass off some general observations about the few middle-class Parisians I knew as insight.
The tendency to ‘pass of some general observations’ based on limited experience is a compelling one and you’ll find me doing this most night about the French, the Swiss and the English as well as anything else that comes my way. Now, where’s my pen and paper…