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Vantastic France Paperback – Feb 6 2012
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About the Author
Steve Bichard was born in Guernsey on the Channel Islands. He has travelled widely, but now spends a great deal of time in France where the novel is based.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Updated to add: Now that I've gone back and read the book, it's a good story and an interesting read. If the author has a more rigorous editor go over it and reissues it, it will be a lot better. A good editor would also have picked up his changing the name of one character from Étienne to Pascal, and changing the spelling of another character's name from Clare to Claire. Details, but all together they can really affect a reading experience!
I enjoyed these characters. Some parts of the book jumped around and were confusing, but I was able to let go of those and enjoy the adventure. Overall the story was fun.
Bichard's characters are quite realistic and immediately relatable for anyone who has ever been in the shoes of a newcomer. Barry's temper and Clarissa's mean-spiritedness highlight the imperfections of each, but also show that they are human, susceptible to their own weaknesses by reacting to situations presented as they are used to by habit. Dialogue is bright and witty, and true to each character. Linda's and Barry's love for each other is obvious through their well-written and realistic banter, for example.
The content of the plot is filled not only with information to benefit the English to French translation for the do-it-yourselfer, but also with some intriguing twists and turns to keep the reader entertained to see if it all turns out all right in the end! I do recommend this book for the information and entertainment value, equally!
I found the characters, while likeable,somewhat stereotypical and lacking in depth. The neighbour, Clarissa, echoes the character of Hyacinth in "Keeping Up Appearances" if you are familiar with that "comedy". For me, as the main antagonist at the beginning, she lacked credibility and I found it hard to believe that such a person could exist. Her comments were clichéd and predictable.
Once the mystery surrounding the past connection between Barry and his neighbour was revealed, the reaction by the characters affected by the complex situation was not explored sufficiently, in my opinion, which left this reader wanting.The relationship between Barry and Linda which had been built up during the chapters to be strong, made me doubt the credibility of events at the end.
There is little information about French culture if that is what interests you as a reader.To sum up, "Vantastic" is a pleasant read but leaves this reader feeling that it was all a bit too contrived.
In Vantastic France Steve Bichard has done a really good job of describing the highs and lows of a new family settling into rural Brittany and finding their place amongst their French neighbours and the expats already there. It is a fun, easy read that in many places had me laughing and nodding in agreement. I’m sure many other expats reading it will find themselves thinking ‘oh yes, I’ve met a Clarissa or a Barry before’. I certainly had a great affinity with Linda and her vegetable growing. This is Steve’s first novel and I thought it moved along very well and the ending has been left in a great place for a follow up, as I’m sure Steve has plenty more stories for the loveable rogue Barry and his long suffering wife Linda. My only small criticism would be that at times some things are a little over explained, which I found a bit unnecessary.