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Petite Anglaise: In Paris. In Love. In Trouble [Hardcover]

Catherine Sanderson

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Book Description

June 17 2008
“When Tadpole was born, I spent a sleepless night on the maternity ward gazing intently into her inky, newborn eyes, grappling to come to terms with the indisputable fact that this was an actual person looking back at me, not just a version of Mr. Frog, or me, or both, in miniature. From the outset she seemed to know what she wanted, and I realized I could have no inkling of the paths she would choose to follow. But if I watch her life unfold carefully enough, perhaps I will see clear signposts pointing to who or what she will become. Because when I look backward, ransacking my own past for clues with the clarity that only hindsight can bring, a series of defining moments do stand out. Moments charged with significance; snapshots of myself which, if I join the dots together, lead me unswervingly to where I stand today: from French, to France, to Paris, and to Petite Anglaise.” [ed. note - excerpted from Petite Anglaise, p.4]

Catherine Sanderson has a beautiful bilingual daughter, an authentic French boyfriend, and a Paris apartment with bohemian charm. She has what she has always wanted — a life in France.

Growing up in Yorkshire amidst a traditional family, Catherine had set her sights on a different life — a life that would immerse her in an exotic language and culture. From grammar school French lessons to teaching English in Normandy and finally to a permanent job in Paris, she was determined that France would be the place she would call home.

But now that she does, things are not so idyllic. Catherine wonders just when her life in Paris turned from wine to vinegar: She’s stuck in a dead-end administrative job, her relationship with her boyfriend has settled into a dreary routine, and the birth of their daughter has not helped to reignite the dying fire of her relationship.

The remedy to her dissatisfaction arrives in the morning headlines. While scanning the news of the day, Catherine becomes intrigued by a story profiling an internet diarist. After exploring one blog after another, and in one exhilarating moment, Catherine decides to create her own online persona, her jardin secret. At that moment, she is transformed from Catherine to Petite Anglaise, her boyfriend to Mr. Frog, her daughter to Tadpole, and her life to something she could never have predicted.

What begins as a lighthearted diversion, a place to discuss the fish-out-of water challenges of ex-pat life in Paris, soon gives way to a raw forum for her to bare her most intimate secrets and impulsive desires. Thousands of readers log-on to the blog and are witness to the ever-widening gulf between Petite Anglaise and Mr. Frog. Those public revelations of her growing frustrations, which play out in each successive post, begin to surreptitiously yet irrevocably erode their relationship.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada; First Printing edition (June 17 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385664311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385664318
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.6 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 508 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,115,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“A digital-age fairy tale set in Paris. . . . Petite Anglaise is light, frank and tremendous fun.”
Guardian (UK)

“Back-story unseen in the blog, and novelistic fluency. . . . Wry and often wise insights into worlds real and virtual.”
Independent (UK)

“Written with breathtaking candour, it will appeal to existing fans and new readers alike.”
Daily Express (UK)

“Magnificent for the most traditional of reasons. Sanderson has a novelist’s gift for capturing certain eternal situations. This book could have been called ‘Madame Bovary on the Metro to the Childmonder’s.’”
Financial Times

“[Sanderson’s] simple, but evocative descriptions of Paris bring the city to life. . . . Though Sanderson writes about her personal experience, she touches on larger issues. Readers will relate to her struggle to find her city, her true love and her calling.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

About the Author

Catherine Sanderson worked for a British accounting firm in Paris when she began her blog Petite Anglaise. When her employer discovered the blog, she was fired. She lives in Paris with her daughter.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Francophiles beware May 29 2009
By wordsmith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
As with others who have expressed disappointment with this book, I have to agree and chime in. I truly wanted to enjoy this story as I am keen on memoir and had once lived in Paris. Despite my predisposition to its premise, I found I couldn't enjoy it as the author comes across as quite narcissistic. So much of the narrative was filtered through what appears to be an endless abyss of insecurity. It made it difficult to relate to let alone find sympathy in her story. For example, she is forever interpreting less than lovely interactions as being done to or as affronts rather than realizing it's her approach and attitude that cause so much inner grief. My opinion of the book was sealed when I found myself repeatedly cringing at the author's descriptions of her toddler daughter. The author exults her romantic life to the detriment of other vital relationships. This book is one dimensional and ultimately a waste of time.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Readable but inconsequential Oct. 24 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This is a beach or airplane read. The author can be witty and she is at her best when she writes about everyday experiences in Paris, but too often her obsession with self and her tendency to take herself way too seriously get in the way. Sanderson's blog, especially the early entries, offers more of the light and entertaining anecdotal writing she is best at.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Girl meets blog March 11 2009
By Nancy S. West - Published on Amazon.com
As her memoir opens, Catherine Sanderson has become an unhappy person. She loves her one-year-old daughter but finds motherhood demanding and frustrating. She is discontent in her relationship with her long-time partner. And even Paris, the city in which she's dreamed of living since childhood, is losing its luster for her.

So she finds a new love, ripe to be showered with devotion and attention. Well, she also has an affair. But the real object of Catherine's affection in the memoir Petite Anglaise is not "Jim from Rennes," who becomes her new boyfriend, but rather her blog, also called Petite Anglaise. Indeed, on a dull afternoon when her various sources of malcontent seem insurmountable, Catherine opens a page on her computer and starts writing. And then hits "publish," and a relationship is born.

This is the first memoir I've read about a girl and her blog. (The memoir "Julie and Julia" by Julie Powell stemmed from a blog, but the author makes only passing mention of it in the narrative, whereas for Sanderson it is a key player in her life.) At first, the blog is a creative outlet and an escape, but it gradually takes on the role of savior. Through her blog, she not only vents her feelings but also experiments a little bit. Like a lot of people, Catherine is a little more clever, a little sassier, a little more adventuresome in her writing than in her real life. Although she initially believes Petite Anglaise is merely a reflection of herself, she eventually comes to recognize that it is more, and as her life develops in new directions - she makes new friends through the blog, breaks up with her partner, and starts an affair with a reader - she gradually begins to question whether she is living through her character, whether her character is controlling her, or just what the releationship between the two -- the real Catherine Sanderson and the blog persona - might be.

Artists have explored the relationships between themselves and their creations ever since the myth of Pygmalion, and the fact that Sanderson uses the state-of-the-art social media to do it doesn't make this an entirely new story, but as blogging and other forms of social media such as Facebook becomes epidemic, it's interesting to think about who we are in relation to our screen selves. Sanderson isn't a fascinating or even always likable person, but she's willing to admit that, both to her memoir readers and to readers of her blog. She struggles with her decisions, and for every time she second-guesses herself, most notably when she breaks up with her daughter's father, she has dozens of blog readers chiming in with their own opinions in the "comments" section of her blog. The unexamined life may not be worth living, as Socrates said; the overexamined life, brought to us by Netscape, presents a whole other set of challenges.

Beyond the questions of blogging and self-reflection, Sanderson simply has an interesting story to tell about life as an ex-pat and young mother in Paris. She loves the city but struggles with its limitations - the daycare situation, the difficulty of finding a suitable apartment, even the dingy appearance of the city of light in late winter - and this memoir is enlightening for those aspects as well as the ones related to social media. Sanderson isn't always a terrific writer, and her romantic scenes border on the Harlequin-esque, but possibly that's the point, to some extent. She's not a great writer but we like reading about her anyway, because she's so candid and so real. And that may be the beauty of blogging.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun to read, especially as a former ex-pat; didn't like the disloyalty Aug. 27 2008
By Tribeca Girl - Published on Amazon.com
WARNING: SPOILER.

For those of you who have lived abroad, this is a fun read. However, I was not comfortable with the public deception. Even though the character is not married, she and her long term partner had a baby together and her partner deserved more respect, particularly since this is a true story and the character maintains a not-very-private blog. In other words, I appreciate that we can fall out of love with our partners, but I can't imagine her partner appreciated the public display of her complaints about their relationship and about her feelings for another man.

Aside from that, I enjoyed her descriptions of Paris, her love affair with another culture and her honesty regarding being a working mom.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful debut.......... June 24 2008
By Terri DuLong - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Having followed Petite's blog off and on over a couple years, I actually had no intention of purchasing the book. Only because I thought perhaps it would be redundant of all her blog posts that I'd read. Wanting to support a fellow author, and because I'd always enjoyed her style of writing, I did pre-order this book.....and I was happily pleased.
First of all, I was impressed with the way Sanderson combined her blog postings effortlessly into a woven piece of work that read like fiction. I did recall a few of the incidents I'd previously read on her blog, but now written in a different way.
This is a delightful debut of a story that just happens to be true. The reader is allowed a glimpse behind the scenes, so to speak. I felt the depth of this author's writing was even stronger in her book than on her blog....and her writing on Petite Anglaise was excellent. But somehow I detected more emotion here than on her blog pages. So I was quite wrong to assume "it'll be identical to her blog."
Like the previous reader, I read this in two days. Much like her blog, I found myself setting the book down, only to be compelled to quickly resume reading.
Wishing much success to this author and looking forward to her fiction release.

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