"Living in Paris with her partner, the workaholic Mr Frog, and their adorable toddler, Tadpole, Catherine decides to alleviate the boredom of her metro-boulot-dodo routine by starting a blog under the name of Petite Anglaise. Writing with disarming honesty about Paris life, about the confines of her hollow relationship with Mr Frog and about the wonder and pain that comes with being a mother, she finds a new purpose to her day. As Petite Anglaise, Catherine regains her confidence and makes virtual friends, including one charismatic and single Englishman who lives in Brittany, James. And after meeting James one evening in a bar, Catherine feels she has regained her ability to fall in love, too."
As with Catherine Sanderson's fictionalised effort, French Kissing, I was expecting feelings of satisfaction and derision in equal measure following my reading of Petite Anglaise. Happily, this was more on the side of entertainment this time. Sanderson continues to demonstrate her canny ability to seize on tiny details that really do accurately portray daily Parisian life, and the way she writes veers between schmaltziness and sheer beauty in equal measure, making this a very comforting and accessible read.
There were plenty of ways in which I felt totally unable to empathise with Catherine. It certainly confirmed for me the feeling of absolute disgust which permeates me even contemplating the logistics and deceit of an affair, and from me the cherry tomato incident elicited no sympathy (just why would you even consider giving your child something which, when left completely whole, could so easily cause them to choke, and then be so surprised and annoyed when they throw them all up all over you?). However, there were many more ways in which I could empathise: she eloquently expresses the feeling of only living alongside French people, rather than living as part of them and being part of their landscape. Her writing reassured me that this can take many years to establish, and that not having a social life or (m)any friends at this stage of my life in France is not abnormal. Although I could not feel familiarity with her success as a blogger (given my quite frequent feeling when blogging that I am just shooting these words into a cyberspace equivalent of a black hole), I did not feel jealous either. Sanderson's familiar style invites you to take a seat beside her and enjoy the ride.
Consequently, Petite Anglaise proves a very quick read, which is never for a moment dull or sluggish: Sanderson keeps readers engaged and on their toes with ease. However, Petite Anglaise and French Kissing are both in a very similar vein in terms of their subject matter, and so while the advice to budding writers to write what they know is sound, I would issue a word of caution: Sanderson may wish to diversify her repertoire if she wishes to keep her readers on the hook. While the expat-lit market is popular, it is not insatiable.
Other works by Catherine SandersonFrench Kissing (2009)