I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany by Mark Greenside is a memoir about an artistic couple who decide to spend the summer in Brittany, France.
Greenside begins by delving deep into the fears and apprehensions any American traveler has before leaving home – the language barrier, the time change, the people, different food, what to pack, and every other possible difference you could imagine. The first quarter of the book is a very pessimistic build up to Greenside’s inevitable discomfort. He is a typical New York writer, set in his ways, with an extreme love for his home city. This pessimism would be barely tolerable if it were not for the strange optimism of Greenside’s girlfriend, Kathryn.
Kathryn, a poet, finds meaning and joy in every event throughout their journey. It is her idea to pack up for the summer and head to France in the first place. Her calm attitude and knowledge of the French language keeps the reader engaged. As the title of the book suggests, the author can get a bit wordy. He rambles on for pages at a time and it is not until the end that you realize he has come to like Brittany.
There are several amusing anecdotes about proprietors, neighbors, town’s people, food, tried conversation, but the awkward nature of the author makes many of the stories uncomfortable to read. It is a quick and sometimes funny book for people who have had difficult, but rewarding travel experiences, but it fails to draw the reader into Brittany, only into the writer’s chaotic mind.
I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany, Mark Greenside, Simon & Schuster, 2008.