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1000 Years Of Annoying The French [Paperback]

Stephen Clarke
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 19 2011
The English Channel may be only twenty miles wide, but it’s a thousand years deep. Stephen Clarke takes a penetrating look into those murky depths, guiding us through all the times when Britain and France have been at war - or at least glowering at each other across what the Brits provocatively call the English Channel. Along the way he explodes a few myths that French historians have been trying to pass off as ‘la vérité’, as he proves that the French did not invent the baguette, or the croissant, or even the guillotine, and would have taken the bubbles out of bubbly if the Brits hadn’t created a fashion for fizzy champagne. Starting with the Norman (not French) Conquest and going right up to the supposedly more peaceful present, when a state visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy becomes a series of hilarious historical insults, it is a light-hearted - but impeccably researched - account of all our great fallings-out. In short, the French are quite right to suspect that the last thousand years have been one long British campaign to infuriate them. And it’s not over yet ...

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“Anyone who’s ever encountered a snooty Parisian waiter or found themselves driving on the Boulevard Peripherique during August will enjoy this book.” (Daily Mail )

“Relentlessly and energetically rude about almost every aspect of French history and culture.” (Mail on Sunday )

“Tremendously entertaining ... will surely shift more copies than all of this years bookish Gallic chronicles combined.” (Sunday Times )

About the Author

Stephen Clarke lives in Paris, where he divides his time between writing and not writing. His first novel, A Year in the Merde, was a runaway bestseller in 2004. He has published three more bestselling Merde novels since then.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1000 Years of Annoying the French Feb. 19 2012
This book should be mandatory reading for all children and adults of English and French descent. It summarizes a 1000 years of bickering between the two nations concisely, humorously and filled with gems of little known facts. Stephen Clarke has a way with words guaranteed to capture the attention of his audience and should serve as a template for future historians.
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5.0 out of 5 stars LOL for Anglophiles and all April 4 2014
By Maestro
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hilarious book poking holes into French revisionist history. Lots of factoids here, easily readable, perfect for airport reading on a trip to France.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and enjoyable Oct. 31 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A fun and enjoyable read filled with facts that will make any Englishman laugh at the expense of the French, which is always a good thing!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Useful 2 for 1 history book Aug. 14 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Good, somewhat funny read . Author appears to have done a lot of research on subjects that can be all too familiar to many and he is not afraid to disagree with historical bias and jingoism. Helpful overview of many historical events familiar to many Brits. Be prepared to reference other books if some thinly covered areas interest you.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  57 reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and informative Sept. 12 2011
By Bachelier - Published on Amazon.com
First: I have never read the "Merde" books, so I am not a Stephen Clarke-can-do-no-wrong-zombie. I have no idea what his other books are like. Second, I also am an Anglophone who lives in France (outside Paris), so lots of his comments are funny *to*me* because his insights about the French are so spot-on, and you'd have to live here to get some of his insider's ribbing.

This is an admirable pop history survey which reviews the relationship between England (and the U.K.) and France: the love-hate and all out wars, the underlying admiration each has for each, and the colorful characters (like Clarke) who have drifted back and forth across the Channel.

This is a very funny book, but also wonderfully historical, and the partisanship (for the English) is kept at a level that would even pass for banter and fun conversation at Elyse Palace.

Clarke has an engaging writing style which is easy to read and doesn't get bogged down, but adds good detail and has wonderful pacing. I often test books for good prose by reading aloud, and Clarke passes the test.

I have to admit I preferred the earlier history sections concerning the Viking William the Conqueror, Joan of Arc, and the details on the thirty and hundred years wars, and Henry Ists diddling of English maids, the latter history is both too near and too painful to have the same light tone that he sustains for most of the topics here. Charles de Gaulle comes off (somewhat deservedly) badly, and Clemenceau's insistence like a stubborn Vendee peasant that every sou of WWI be paid for by Germany is (though accurate) told a bit one-dimensionally.

Another flaw is the book is aimed for a specific U.K. readership, and so Clarke's tone and prose often is like he is writing just for a Britisher. He appears to have forgotten about the anglophones in colonies and Commonwealth readers, or the rebel Americans (who put on more Gilbert and Sullivan each year than the U.K. produces in decades). There are odd typos, copy editing was apparently farmed out to high school seniors.

Still, Clarke's whimsical take on all things disastrous about the French and their interactions with the English and the "Anglo-Saxons" is so informative and well-executed that the flaws are easily forgiven.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In the spirit of "1066 and all that! June 27 2011
By Marshall Lord - Published on Amazon.com
This amusing gallop through the last thousand years of the relationship between France and the various parts of the British Isles is a bit like an updated and more grown-up (and much less inaccurate) version of "1066 and all that" combined with a grown-up version of the "Horrible Histories" series of books and TV programmes.

Author Stephen Clarke doesn't really dislike the French but he loves teasing them, and particularly loves pointing out the discrepancies between their illusions and the truth - but he has no qualms whatsoever in exposing the similar discrepancies in the English (or American, or Scots) view of history or about taking the mickey out of the Brits.

From the Norman conquest to the present day, Clarke has great fun skewering the myths which people on both sides of the channel - and both sides of the Atlantic -have believed about the relationship the French and "Les Anglo-Saxons" including Americans: this book points out that Barak Obama became an Anglo-Saxon in French eyes when he was elected President of the USA.)

Examples of the humour in the books:

(After mentioning that the Icelandic Sagas were not stocked in French public libraries in the 1400s:)

"Probably because in the 15th century France didn't have any public libraries."

(Of Voltaire's books about how much more democratic the English aristocracy was than the French ...)

"Yes, an 18th century English Lord as a model of democracy: it makes you realise just how bad things must have been in Paris."

(of the Halifax Gibbet, which was basically a guillotine used in Yorkshire to decapitate criminals many centuries before the French introduced a similar machine)

"And by the look of the modern replica standing in Gibbet Street, Halifax today, if that thing came down on your neck your head would fly half-way accross Yorkshire."

Of Casabianca, who declined to abandon the French flagship at the Nile when she was on fire and about to blow up, Clarke agrees with Spike Milligan:

"It is heroic but perhaps a little silly to stand there when your more experienced shipmates tell you to jump for your life. As the comedy writer Spike Milligan once said,

The boy stood on the burning deck
whence all but he had fled ...

The twit!"

Generally the book seems to be pretty accurate: I did find a few very minor errors. For example General de Lally, who was the French equivalent of Admiral Byng in that he was a senior officer who lost a campaign and was executed as a scapegoat, would have been put to death using a more old fashioned method than the guillotine as this machine had not been adopted in France at the time of his execution.) But none of the errors I spotted was at all significant.

Not the most scholarly or serious account of Anglo-French relations. But definately good for a laugh.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great source for those who annoy the French daily Sept. 25 2012
By Fatman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Living and working in France for a decade now I still get frustrated by the way the French choose the truths according to what pleases them.
Stephen Clarke must have gone through similar emotions -his Merde was spot on.
Having said that, jokes sort of lose their zest after a dozen or so reruns.

There are plenty of little delicious details in this book that one can use to liven up the table discussion.
For instance that the 'viennoiserie' that we are eating gets its name from a European capital.
"Mais oui, Vienne, c'est dans l'Est, n'est pas?"
Austria does not ring a bell, not a single one.

It is obvious that this book is lost on the French, even those who say they speak English.
It will also be lost on Francophiles, there are too many heresies there and it is not in French.

I enjoyed reading it until the last 20 pages or so. The joke had gotten old.
Still, well worth the money and time spent.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the read. Feb. 13 2013
By Jodi Dorries - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating and, at times, very funny survey through the history of why the Brits and the French have a love/hate relationship. Enjoyable anecdotes and commentary by the author. If you enjoy reading Stephen Clarke, you'll like this one.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyable Feb. 5 2013
By Margaret Durkin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is laugh out loud funny and also very informative.

One of the nice features is that you can dip in and out of the book and enjoy it.
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