petite anglaise

April 10, 2008

post mortem

Filed under: book stuff — petiteanglaise @ 9:32 am

Reading the various reviews of “petite anglaise”, a few things have given me pause for thought.

One is that many readers are judging the book against everything I’ve previously written here, rather than on its merits as a book, full stop. This was inevitable. I do have a huge body of ‘work’ already out there. When I put together my book proposal – in haste – I had to make choices. Choices about which strands of my story I wanted to use. Choices about which material would appeal most to the publishers circling around me. Choices about who I wanted the book to appeal to most: my blog readers, or a wider audience? Or both?

I stand by my choices, but invariably some people would have preferred me to do everything differently. ‘I didn’t want to know about X.’ ‘I wish she’d written more about Y.’ I’m reminded of opinions aired in my comments box, along the lines of ‘I liked it better in the old days when you wrote more about Paris.’ There is something about the participative nature of blogging that gives readers a sense of ownership. Some feel entitled to tell me what they think I ought to write – as if a blog were like some sort of online ‘request show’. I reserve the right to politely disagree.

But I’ve realised there is no sense in worrying about not pleasing everyone. That would have been mission impossible: my book can’t be all things to all people. The quirk(e)y reviewer in the New Statesman wishes I’d shown more of my ‘disturbo’ side, whereas glimpses of the compulsive blogger in me made others deeply uncomfortable.

A charge levelled against the book (particularly on Amazon – a place I only go when I’m feeling masochistic) is that petite anglaise is too ‘mememe’, and that some of the secondary characters are rather one-dimensional. To the mememe charge, I’d say that when a story is narrated in the first person, you necessarily see events from a single perspective; you are only permitted a view inside one person’s head. Other characters, although they can explain themselves through their words and gestures, necessarily remain enigmatic to a greater or lesser degree. ‘Petite’ is a true story, taken from a personal blog and I didn’t have an ‘access all areas’ backstage pass into James’s or Mr Frog’s heads. If I had, many of the twists and turns of the story would have been robbed of the power to surprise and shock. As for my ‘secondary characters’, they are real people whose identities and sensibilities I had to protect. I was telling my story, from my perspective and left many of their stories out of the final cut, robbing the reader of extra insights which would, no doubt, have rounded out their characters. But I didn’t feel I had the right to go further.

I learnt a lot while writing ‘petite’. I learnt that a book is finished when you simply can’t bear to look at it any more; not when it’s ‘perfect’. I learnt that once it is written, the author has to let it go, leave the marketing people to their jobs, let them package it, add their cover blurb, and send it out into the world to fend for itself. There no point in me agonising over whether ‘petite’ should be shelved next to the latest Jordan autobiography, or in the travel section next to Peter Mayle. Or neither. In the words of Vicomte de Valmont: it’s beyond my control.

The main thing the experience of writing a personal story and laying myself open to personal criticisms has taught me is that I don’t necessarily want to do it again. No matter how many lovely emails and comments I’ve received from people who have read the book compulsively, finished it in one sitting, laughed and cried and empathised along with me and felt sad when they reached the end, at 4 am, because they wanted more.

So there will be no petite anglaise II. There will be a novel, in which I can draw on my own experiences as much or as little as I wish, fill out the secondary characters to my heart’s content and take on board the constructive criticism I’ve received and try and do better. I’m proud of what I achieved and convinced I wrote the best book I possibly could at the time.

But I hope the best is yet to come.

91 Comments

  1. Hey PA,
    I’m yet to read your tome – been looking down here in OZ but I guess I don’t get out enough.

    Don’t let critics get you down – there’s a lot to be said about “those that can do, those that can’t review”. All literature is subjective and tastes vary wildly – clearly those of us that follow your blog are going to be most likely to like the book and others mileage will vary.

    A personal “memoir” is one of the hardest genre, and you are to be congratulated on taking it on as your first effort! Putting yourself on the line is never easy.

    I for one find your blog style varied and easy to follow. I like it, and that’s what counts – I am the arbiter of style :-)

    I wrote a (well co-wrote) a best selling IT book years ago and went through a lot of what you are enjoying. At the end of the day you wrote a book, that makes you in the 1% of humanity that did. That’s the achievement.

    I’m sure your next effort will be even better. Esp. if it’s like “The World of Tadpole”. Cute sells.

    Cheers
    P

    Comment by Le Roi — April 10, 2008 @ 9:52 am

  2. It’s out in Australia in early May according to the Penguin Down Under website…

    Comment by petite — April 10, 2008 @ 9:56 am

  3. Petite, I think ‘putting yourself out there’, laying yourself out to receive praise/criticism at the will of the reader and baring your soul is a very courageous thing to do. Blogging, as some would have it, is not a brave thing to do, as the keyboard etc is easy to hide behind. To go SERIOUSLY public takes a lot of chutzpah, which you and your secondary characters obviously have in bucketloads. We are all our own best judges, if we allow ourselves to be honest with ourselves. Courage! and enjoy the ride! June is not too far away – its my 40th on the 9th so I should know! PS my garter fell off in fron of the vicar. Beware wedding traditions!

    Comment by georgiethewondercat — April 10, 2008 @ 9:57 am

  4. Petite, you’ve been checking the WRONG Amazon site!

    Comment by alcessa — April 10, 2008 @ 10:21 am

  5. Hi Catherine!
    I came accross your book quite by chance (seen it listed in an avertising leaflet of the play.com website), at first my attention was captured by the illustrations on the front page, then I read through the presentation lines and decided I wanted to read it! Of course in English, I don’t even know when the Italian edition will appear…
    I really loved it and missed it when it was over (but reading your blog is a good answer to the “what happened then?” question).
    Found a lot of me in that (I shared the same love you had for French language and France for German and Germany) and found it really enjoyable.
    Go on like this!
    :)

    Comment by Ale — April 10, 2008 @ 10:31 am

  6. I was just about to write something similar to comment number 3.

    I haven’t yet read your book but it’s on my long list of books to read over the next couple of months. I have however been reading your blog for a long time – I think it was just over a year old when I started.

    Since the publication of “Petite Anglaise” I’ve been amazed at some of the comments you’ve received, especially the negative ones. Obviously as a writer with a blog you have given your readers easy access to you, something that most writers don’t provide for their readers. I’ve always found it admirable that you post all comments, both positive and negative and, at times, downright offensive. I wonder if other authors who aren’t so accessible get quite so much of response to their books? Do they have to wade through wads of vitriolic letters or delete in-boxes bulging with picky e-mails? Can anyone enlighten me?

    As far as I’m concerned, I hope you carry on as you always have and I’m looking forward to the novel (and the one after that). Also please keep us updated on whether you go for red shoes or not at the wedding!!? You could have a matching bouquet of red roses?

    Comment by Hazy — April 10, 2008 @ 10:45 am

  7. Yet the advantages of going from blog to book, despite the inconvenience of blog readers making requests and trying to participate in your book, is that, unlike those who publish books without having a blog and receive bad reviews and just deal with it personally, you can continue to write on your blog about your bad reviews so that you can console yourself with those tired old words of encouragement from your blog readers. They of course like your writing or else they wouldn’t bother reading the blog regularly.

    I haven’t read your book but I think the new statesmen review is very well-written. The reviewer has a wonderful talent for writing.

    Comment by Pete — April 10, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  8. @alcessa – thanks for pointing those out, I hadn’t thought to look there. (Although the second one was a challenge for my rusty German.) Or here for that matter. I really like the (single) French review. Very perceptive.

    Comment by petite — April 10, 2008 @ 10:48 am

  9. Petite,

    I have read all of your blog and am honored to have an insight into your life. There are things in my life (similar to yours) that i would never publish, but you have done and it isn’t my place to judge (not that i do) as I am a guest into your life.

    I have also read the book. It wasn’t perfect (what is?). But I really enjoyed reading it and shall be lending it to my Mum (who has never read a blog in her life).

    Keep doing what you are doing and i look forward to reading the novel.

    Thank you for your honesty.

    Comment by Vicki — April 10, 2008 @ 10:50 am

  10. I think I know now why I haven’t read the book, in spite of being an avid reader of the blog for ages. Make no mistake, no sales have been lost; my half-Scottish, half Bavarian totally francophile nineteen-year-old daughter is enjoying the novel hugely.

    “There is something about the participative nature of blogging that gives readers a sense of ownership…” How true, and this is something that makes a good blog a very special, almost interactive pleasure. When the comments to a post number over fifty it is clear that there is something completely different happening, and in almost realtime, compared with the solitary enjoyment of a book.

    I shall read the book, of course, in due course. Maybe when there’s no longer a blog. Until then the uniqueness of the blog is something I don’t want to miss; notr do I want to confuse myself by conflating blog and book. I have too much respect and admiration for the author.

    Comment by Sandlander — April 10, 2008 @ 10:56 am

  11. “I learnt that a book is finished when you simply can’t bear to look at it any more; not when it’s ‘perfect’” I had the same thought about my book “Johnny and Me” . I found very helpful to share these thoughts with you Petite!

    Comment by penelope — April 10, 2008 @ 11:29 am

  12. Hello Catherine,

    I’ve discovered your blog thanks to WH Smith March newsletter, I liked your writing and the subjects you talked about, this is why I decided to buy the book. I’m currently reading the part when you feel you should maybe stop blogging because of all the comments you’ve received about leaving Mr Frog for Lover, but also people asking for more often posts, etc.

    I think that people who read your blog (and/or read your book) decided to do it and they should appreciate it and thank you, if they don’t like it, they should just go and stop reading it rather that attacking.

    I can’t understand why and how some people can be so aggressive sometimes, writing this blog was YOUR decision and YOU should decide when and what you wanna talk about, if people don’t like it, then that’s THEIR opinion, full stop.

    Judging you is another thing, I think we can all have personal opinions but again, no one has the right to critize your choices, especially when these “mean” people are only “comments writers”. As wrote Vicki, you’ve been honest about your life choices and you could have decided to hide some personal details just to please your public, but no, and that’s courageous.

    In my family there have been couples (parents, sister…) to whom happened the same thing (without the blog issue), not being happy anymore in their relationship and leaving for someone or noone. That’s life!

    Just to end, I think people critizing what you write here and decided to put in your book are missing something.

    Listen to what people say (or write) but never take it for granted, after all you’re the decider of your own life.

    Wow, when something like this touches me I just can’t stop writing, hope my emotions didn’t affect too much my English! lol

    The thing I wanna remember from you is that you’re a talented person, it’s obvious as one reads your blog and/or book. Sometimes, I even forget that’s a non-fiction book.

    I’m looking forward to read your novel now! :)

    Take care xx

    Maeva

    Comment by Mae — April 10, 2008 @ 11:36 am

  13. Petite,

    Do not be daunted. Your words give joy and offer thoughtfulness. That is a major achievement. And what a gift to Tadpole down the track.

    Comment by lindsey violet — April 10, 2008 @ 11:40 am

  14. It says, approximately:

    As an non-regular reader of the famous blog “Petite Anglaise, I was quite curious about the book by the author of the blog, Catherine Sanderson, even though I wasn’t sure whether one (“woman”) can expect a good book made after a famous, and also a bit infamous, blog.

    She can.

    Enriched by additional background information, stylistically and as regards content very convincing, the biography of Petite Anglaise/Catherine Sanderson Sanderson kept me happy for a whole day, even though I don’t like the so called “chicklit”.

    Well done!
    – – –

    The German and French Amazon at least have a very large group of customers…

    Comment by alcessa — April 10, 2008 @ 11:56 am

  15. Post mortems are carried out on dead bodies. Your book has only just been born and has far to go. Not to mention your literary career!
    Don’t lose sight of the fact that having a book published is a FANTASTIC ACHIEVEMENT, no matter who decides to sneer at it from the comfort of their armchair/ keyboard.
    Give it time and I’m sure the positive reviews will outbalance the negative ones.
    Paradoxically, one of the drawbacks to the Internet is its immediacy.
    Time will tell. This is only the beginning!

    Comment by happyforyou — April 10, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

  16. I didn’t intend to sound down or defeated and I’m not looking for consolation (!)

    The overwhelming majority of reviews, both by professional critics and fellow bloggers, have been very positive indeed. We have some fantastic quotes to use on the paperback version.

    I just wanted to draw attention to the particularities of blog to book and reflect on some of the constructive criticism I’ve had so far…

    Comment by petite — April 10, 2008 @ 12:23 pm

  17. Petite, I’m a huge fan of this blog, have not read the book yet. But wanted to point something out to you. Regarding what you say about masochism and the amazon site: I work in opera and have a lifelong love hate relationship with reviews. I have been devastated many times, to the point of it being destructive to my career. The awful dilemma – if they are good, then we are thrilled and ego-stroked – but then what happens when they devastate us?? What are we to believe? As a masochist myself, I did go to the amazon Petite review section. I wanted to make sure you realize how many wonderful enthusiastic things are being said; perhaps the nasty ones eclpsed the great ones in your view? Lots and LOTS of people love this book. I can’t wait to read it!

    Comment by Laurie Feldman — April 10, 2008 @ 12:28 pm

  18. Hi Petite,
    I did not see your name is the latest review of the most sold book accrosss different countries in my daily IHT. How come? ;-) Just kidding, it’s good.

    Comment by Vonric — April 10, 2008 @ 12:40 pm

  19. @ number 15: Not to quibble (which means I will) but post mortem is a common term in the newspaper and publishing industry. You take the first run and look through to find the bone-headed gaffes that have been made in the rush to get it to print, how things might have been covered differently, ideas suggested on what to follow up on the next day, etc.

    It’s a look back and a look forward – as was this post.

    Comment by ian in hamburg — April 10, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

  20. @ 19
    Thanks for the clarification, but I’m perfectly aware that the term is used in the publishing industry. I just wanted to go back to the traditional medical meaning to help put my own point across – i.e. that it is early days yet, the book has only been launched, etc.
    I was not quibbling about petite’s choice of title, just using it for my own ends in posting a comment…

    Comment by happyforyou — April 10, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  21. Re Comment 6.
    RED Roses for a Yorkshire Lass! Mon dieu!! White roses unfortunately wouldnt match the dress!

    Comment by Petites Mum — April 10, 2008 @ 12:56 pm

  22. I can completely understand you don’t want to write a Petite Anglaise II, but I still really enjoyed reading your book, and I’m curious to see what you’ll come up with next.

    And as a student of literature I can tell you even the most wonderful books get criticized, simply because people have different tastes. I read several books for my courses that I completely loved and read over and over again, only to hear them being fiercely condemned by fellow students because they didn’t like the way the writer portrayed/omitted a certain subject.

    As long as you enjoy being a writer, don’t let anyone stop you.

    Comment by Marjolein — April 10, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

  23. Dear Catherine,
    Indeed, you are very courageous. I adored your book, and enjoyed so much reading about your book tour and adventures simultaneously. Couldn’t wait for the publication date in the US so I ordered it from Amazon.fr. Like all good books, I was very, very sad when I reached the ending and yearned for the next book in the series! You lead such a brave, wonderful life . . best of wishes for a best selling novel, a joyous marriage and an exciting future with your daughter and soon to be new husband!

    Comment by Jeanne — April 10, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

  24. “I learnt that a book is finished when you simply can’t bear to look at it any more; not when it’s ‘perfect’.” I would love to have your permission to quote you on this when I’m coaching aspiring authors, because they are always looking for ‘perfect’ and therefore their books never get finished. I think your perspective is the more realistic one.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — April 10, 2008 @ 2:07 pm

  25. Hello Catherine

    I said in my first post that I found your book quite by chance without being aware of the BLOG. I enjoyed the book as I now enjoy the BLOG.

    In my second post I wrote that I was concerned about the personal criticism you had received on the BLOG – I found some of the posts really quite unpleasant – I was relieved when you said it did hurt but you’d received many more positive personal emails.

    Just because I loved the book, love the BLOG, doesn’t mean I agreed with all your decisions or everything you disclosed. We all react to what life throws at us in different ways; however, I would never in a million years post a public rebuke or personal criticism on your BLOG. Why do people need to throw stones!

    Additionally, I rarely read “the critics”. How are they going to know if I will like a book, play, film, I’m perfectly competent at making up my own mind based on the subject matter, previous experience of the author, synopsis on the dust cover, prepared to take a chance, etc! If I were in print I expect I would find it very difficult to keep away, it would be come compulsive reading no doubt.

    But as for those who post unpleasant comments on your BLOG you can’t help but read them can you, you have my sympathy and I suppose comfort may be that they probably haven’t had your success.

    Angela x

    Comment by ookymooky — April 10, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

  26. At the end of the day, you have achieved your dreams and have the knowledge that for you the best is indeed yet to come. What more could a girl ask for?

    G.I.M x

    P.S. Amazon delivered your book to my door today. I’m very excited…!

    Comment by girlwiththemask — April 10, 2008 @ 2:27 pm

  27. Petite’s Mum –

    you are quite right! I should have thought of that, especially as I read “Catherine” by Anya Seaton and immediately fell in love with the Plantagenets and the whole Wars of the Roses period!

    No, red roses certainly wouldn’t do.

    Comment by Hazy — April 10, 2008 @ 2:32 pm

  28. @24
    The first book is one thing but most writers discover they are unable to write a second one.
    I bet it will be different with PA. She handles the pen (ahem: keyboard…) with a sound talent.

    Comment by Saluki — April 10, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

  29. Delurking to say that while your book is still in my waiting-til-term’s-over reading queue, I’ve long admired and enjoyed your honesty, as well as your ability to imbue daily scenes with humour, liveliness, and often poignancy, on your blog. I recently posted about how vulnerable and foolish I sometimes feel after putting myself out there in my blog, and can only imagine how it would feel to do so on the much greater scale that you regularly brave on your blog and the huge exposure that your book has brought. Thank you for being so brave and for writing so well. I look forward to reading, first, Petite and someday, your novel.

    Comment by materfamilias — April 10, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

  30. ‘Perfect’ must be impossible as no-one could write a book that appeals to everyone’s taste.
    People will always criticise, constructively or not, so I’m pleased to hear you are not going to be put off by adverse comments.
    The point is, the majority of us reckon you are a damn good writer and can’t wait for your second oeuvre.

    Comment by sablonneuse — April 10, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

  31. Of course one can’t please all of the people all of the time. Why even try? As I have said before, a post about the transition from blogs to book would be quite riveting for those of us who are doing the same thing.
    Was it your decision to condense the story into a year for instance?
    I’m sorry you say you won’t write another autobiog; much more gripping than a novel IMO.

    Comment by Pat — April 10, 2008 @ 3:51 pm

  32. BTW I have been doggedly not mentioning it but as your Mum brought it up, you do realise we won.
    A Lancashire lass.

    Comment by Pat — April 10, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

  33. What a great stepping stone this book has been for you. You’ve gone from being a blogging secretary to a writer. You have a publisher, an agent, a PR team, and an insiders take on how the process works.

    Now your two-book deal gives you the chance to head off in a whole new (fictional) direction, with all kinds of insights into where you want to go. Keep writing!

    Comment by Peg — April 10, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

  34. I am one of the people who read the book in one go, staying up until 4am to do so. I have not done that since I was on summer break in high school, so that is quite a testimonial to your story.
    I love all kinds of writing styles, from the very literary to the more straightforward, and I look forward to reading each of your books as you write them, regardless of the category they fall into.
    I am very grateful, however, for the blog, which fills in the gaps in between projects.

    Congratulations on your success!

    Comment by Aly — April 10, 2008 @ 4:56 pm

  35. The one I like is ‘no one ever built a statue of a critic!’

    Comment by Babycakes — April 10, 2008 @ 7:44 pm

  36. ‘So there will be no petite anglaise II’.

    Never say never. What would’ve happened if Sly Stallone hadn’t said ‘there ain’t gonna be no rematch’?

    Anyway, life, as we all know, has an annoying habit of not conforming to our expectations. Who can say (with certainty), where they will be in 5, 10 or 20 years. Long live chaos and crazy spur of the moment happenings.

    PS. I think you’ll write a follow up because you’re drawn to telling your story. Maybe not now, but give it a few years, and you’ll be back. I betcha… ;-)

    Comment by Steve... — April 10, 2008 @ 7:50 pm

  37. Hello Petite. As I have previously said, I thoroughly enjoyed your book. I find it interesting that so many people, like me, just read the book continuously. I haven’t done that with any of the other books I read recently. Looking forward to the novel.

    Comment by pierre l — April 10, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

  38. I suspect that quite a lot of people have been waiting for you to write a new entry, it’s been some time. But it was worth waiting for, it has the same unlikely mixture of self-confidence and humble self-appraisal which so often makes this blog si charmant. (and so English!)
    Of course a book is a totally different ball-game, especially in one respect: people don’t go out and spend their cash on blog entries. Critics do have a right and even a duty to give a fair and balanced opinion of a book, so that we lesser mortals can decide if we want to buy it. However, while heaping scorn and even abuse on the author may be an ego-trip par excellence, I find it embarrassing and almost pathetic.
    I liked the book of “Belle de Jour” as well, which was well-written in a different way: there again, some people frothed at the mouth over it, basically because they disapproved of the subject-matter.
    The “real” novel as a next step seems a good idea, a project where you can use experiences and acquaintances in a fictional context, adding to them and transforming them as it suits you. I personally have only ever written musicals (the old-fashioned kind, no roller-skates etc.) but there too I have always found myself writing from experience, and embroidering it with wishful thinking from my own life, with characters and events from literature, from the newspapers and so on. Whatever you choose to do, it’s the chance of a lifetime: with the relative success of this first book behind you, you don’t have to let yourself be pushed around by agents and publishers. Listen to advice by all means, but make sure you are doing what you want for yourself. Most people don’t get that opportunity, don’t let anybody take it from you!

    Comment by Bill George — April 10, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

  39. Hi there,

    When or has your book been launched in SA yet?
    Love your blog…..been reading for a while. Sue

    Comment by sue — April 10, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

  40. if you give your private life over to the public for appraisal, then condemnation has to be accepted too. i think people are judging your life rather than your writing, but if you make the 2 inseparable than thats all you can expect.

    Comment by trot — April 10, 2008 @ 9:54 pm

  41. A very balanced and fair response to the reviews / criticism. You’re right to be proud, but I think you’re also right – for the sake of your sanity – to steer clear of memoir from now on. You’ve proved you can write and the world is now your oyster.

    Comment by Clare — April 10, 2008 @ 11:58 pm

  42. I should have ordered my copy from over the pond . I guess I few more week wont kill me .

    ==Alaska

    Comment by ==Alaska — April 11, 2008 @ 1:43 am

  43. This may have been said already but, you should pay no never mind to what anyone has to say. This was your story, told by you. It was good enough to be published. If you are happy with it, that’s it. That’s all that matters. Every one thinks they’re a critic. If they think you should have done it differently, let them write their own book. Hang tough and keep writing, your very good at it.

    Comment by Mad William — April 11, 2008 @ 7:12 am

  44. I have read your blog for 2 years, bought the book immediately upon publication and loved it. Subject matter aside, I think you are an incredibly talented writer and am very much looking forward to your future work.

    Comment by Becs — April 11, 2008 @ 8:44 am

  45. Down with the Critics! And long live you,Tadpole and your fabulous writing!
    X

    Comment by lex — April 11, 2008 @ 10:56 am

  46. Glad you liked my review on the french amazon website !
    I realize it must be very difficult to write a “true story”, knowing it will be read by the very same people you depict. I am sure your next work of fiction will be very good because in addition to your great writing style, you’ll have more freedom to express the characters’ feelings. Don’t let the bad reviews get to you and good luck for what happens next !

    Comment by Delphine — April 11, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

  47. Hi Catherine,

    I am waiting (and waiting and waiting) for my copy from the American Amazon–I’m too cheap to pay for overseas postage. I do hope you managed to talk the American editors out of “mommy”.

    I think some people (male and female) are freaked out at the idea of a woman, particularly a mother, putting her happiness first, rather than sacrificing her personal needs for the sake of holding the relationship together for the child. If the tables were turned and the story was about a man leaving an unhappy relationship, I doubt there would be so many comments about how self-centered the narrator is. You’re a bit of an unconventional woman in your life choices and those choices are now being displayed to the broader public who perhaps have a very narrow point of view on how a mother should behave.

    It will be interesting to see your book is perceived by the American public. People over here think of the French and English as a bit weird and eccentric so maybe they won’t be as quick to judge you by their standards. Oh well, only time will tell.

    Comment by Sakoro — April 11, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

  48. You don’t need to defend yourself. You have done a great job, and if anyone who criticises you thinks they can do better there is a universe of agents and publishers out there that’s dying to see their work.

    You have written a good book – and God knows, I read a lot of them – at least fifty per year.

    I particularly like the way that you have written the story behind the blog, rather than simply rehashing your blog posts – it gives both the book and the blog their own audiences that will cross over. I felt it gave me an insight into the person behind the words, and the events behind the posts. So when you mention that something big happened in your life and you sat down to blog about it I was able to think to myself, “I remember that post – I remember wondering what was happening”.

    Well done!

    Comment by Damian — April 11, 2008 @ 5:22 pm

  49. I have to disagree, I think the majority of people are not judging your book by your blog, the two are so different that it’s so easy to read it as an entirely different entity.

    Comment by letigre — April 11, 2008 @ 5:55 pm

  50. Hej,

    Two weeks ago I went to buy a book for myself to read on my way to Sweden. I couldn’t just wait to go and started reading. I really don’t think you did anything wrong with the book…I’m really adicted to it and as soon as I’m ready with work I’ll chill down on my chair look outside to the perfect snow and read till I go to bed. I made a blog for myself last week. I had one a few times, but I just thougt that I had nothing to tell. Now I know I have. Thank you for that ;) I wish you good luck with writing and everything around it.
    hej dåh!

    Comment by lilian — April 11, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  51. Petite anglais II or not, I enjoyed the book, and look forward to reading your novel.

    Comment by Anne — April 11, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

  52. “The human turnip”
    chortle

    Comment by Mancunian Lass — April 11, 2008 @ 9:18 pm

  53. First of all – congrats on the book. I loved it, devoured it in virtually one sitting!!

    However… I find it odd that you don’t take too kindly to criticism from your blog (and book) readers? Blogging is indeed completely interactive, as proven by the existence of a comments box. You could disable it permanently if you didn’t want interaction. As soon as Petite Anglaise pops up on a computer screen, or is scanned through the register at Borders, it’s in the hands of the people who are putting you in a – let’s face it – pretty sweet position.

    I understand it can be frustrating, however you don’t have to accept their criticism or take on their ‘requests’, but you should relish the fact that people care enough about your writing to want to feel a part of it.

    Comment by Lala — April 11, 2008 @ 9:23 pm

  54. As far as people thinking your blog (any blog, for that matter) is a “request show,” well, around here we say “you pay your dime and you take your chances.”

    I for one am glad you’re moving on to fiction. If your stories are as good as your blog, they’ll be great.

    Comment by Juti — April 11, 2008 @ 9:52 pm

  55. Petite I am enjoying your book as I have enjoyed your blog. I’ve never felt I should suggest what you should write about- it’s your blog. When you’ve experienced pain that you wrote about, I have felt sorry for you. Mostly I’ve enjoyed your writing style. The variety of posts and the wonderful descriptions are why I bought the book.
    I am quite glad that you have left out some threads of your life when writing your book- not that I’m not interested, but this way I know what you may not wish to share.
    And I must thank you for some advice you gave: be careful what one writes in a blog. So true. I teach and hope to find a new position in Paris some day. Imagine not getting a job because of something I posted!
    Finally, the other book I bought with yours was A MOVEABLE FEAST- I can spell; just not well all the time!
    Karen or Wren, whatever.

    Comment by Wren — April 12, 2008 @ 12:30 am

  56. It is so difficult to please everyone. Please don’t be discouraged. I have not read your book, but it is on my list for my next trip to France in the fall.

    Comment by Mimi — April 12, 2008 @ 1:37 am

  57. Very honest post mortem.

    It’s intersting/nice to read your feedback to your reviews.

    Comment by miss london — April 12, 2008 @ 6:13 am

  58. Dear Petite,

    I have been silently following your blog for sometime and for some reason I’ve always hesitated to make any comment due to some odd strain of shyness. I remember being in my second year at university and reading about your unfair dismissal but it wasn’t until about a year ago finding myself infront of a computer sipping my third ‘Cloonette’ of the day, that I properly started to read the blog. I’m now towards the end of my French degree,after perpetual dilly-dallying and finding myself the be the eldest in the final year and I just wanted to thankyou for providing me with no end of amusement and without wanting to sound like a sycophant, guidance. I commenced a love affair with France and my ‘Mr Frog’ and being a Lancashire lass have realised all to well what life is like as the ‘tite anglaise. You have managed to so eloquently describe the majority of my experiences here because to be frank, having left all my friends behind in Blighty, there aren’t too many people who understand what it is to be the étrangère. Et donc voilà! Je crois que j’ai tout dit..sauf..

    ‘Critiques: L’une des nombreuses méthodes qu’affectionnent les imbéciles pour perdre leurs amis’

    And I can’t wait to read your book!!

    x j x

    Comment by othersideoftheborder — April 12, 2008 @ 10:59 am

  59. I’m also “down here in oz” and pre-ordered the book on amazon.uk so it arrived as soon as it came out (for those Australians waiting you can get anything on amazon much cheaper than buying it in Australia, even with the postage). I loved it and kept wishing it wasn’t going to end. Catherine, you should be proud. I can’t wait for the novel.

    Comment by Jo — April 12, 2008 @ 11:47 am

  60. If the reviewers unanimously hated your book, then you’d have something to worry about! Now some love it and some hate it, a positive accomplishment in itself, I feel. It takes true talent to arouse such strong feelings in total strangers!

    Comment by Nora — April 12, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

  61. Bonjour Petite,
    love your blog and loved the book. You had me addicted to both, so please keep on doing the same, this is just so good to read your stories.. and keep making us laugh with your “caca dans l’eau” stories : wicked !!!
    FrenchPoupette

    Comment by FrenchPoupette — April 12, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

  62. I was given your book as a 53rd birthday present by my brother. He goes to a book shop near Waterloo and has described me to the owners and this time they sold him your book. I finished it 3 minutes ago and I phoned him first. What a book – I cried as I saw myself the whole way through. Although I’m so much older than you, the last page gave me strength for the future and I’m amazed my brother knows me so well! My daughter is coming to Paris for the summer on a placement and I will make sure she reads your book before leaving! Well done and thank you. Not being very proficient with computers I’ve never read a blog, but once I’ve got over my emotional turmoil I’ll be following yours from now on!

    Comment by Kate Tutty — April 12, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  63. I enjoyed the book but I knew the story before I picked it up. :-)

    The novel though… I’m looking forward to that!

    Comment by Brennig — April 12, 2008 @ 8:21 pm

  64. Hello Petite/Catherine.
    I discovered your book on the shelves of WHS without even knowing what a ‘blog’ is. I finished it this morning and just want to say how much I enjoyed it – thanks. Your descriptions of Paris, your life there and your honesty had me hooked. Of course, now I’ve got to read your blog too – I want to catch up on who the boy is you’re going to marry! Warmest best wishes to you, to Tadpole and to those you love.

    Comment by Nursey — April 13, 2008 @ 10:08 am

  65. Yes, when my own novels were published I was surprised about readers’ reactions. The majority of reviews were enthusiastic and encouraging but inevitably there were a couple that were less so and those were the ones I couldn’t get out of my mind! But what surprised me too was the fact that different readers focused on different details. Cat lovers worried about a cat (which appeared very briefly), chaps mentioned romps and bodice ripping (no bodices are ripped) and Prima mag said ‘we were gripped by this thriller set in Geneva’ when I thought it was a kind of love story.
    You’ve had so much wonderful publicity for a first book, Petite, and the excellent sales figures should help heal any minor wounds. When anyone can go on line and review a book you’re bound to get some comments from the edge. One just needs to develop a thick skin, while remaining receptive to useful lit crit. Best wishes for Jour J!

    Comment by Susie Vereker — April 13, 2008 @ 10:21 am

  66. I think people have opinions/ suggestions for most of the art or entertainment they enjoy and you should be lucky you are given the opportunity to hear it.

    Luckily most of the negative feedback about your book has been about you and not your writing and without meaning to be sexist I suspect that’s mostly to do with the wrath of scorned women.

    Comment by Charlene — April 13, 2008 @ 6:07 pm

  67. It’s a memoir, so as such has to have a certain element of ‘me, me, me’ – I mean, you couldn’t have written a memoir about your neighbour, could you?! Tsk, some people…

    Comment by Ariel — April 13, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

  68. Delurking to say how much I enjoy reading your weblog, congratulations on your engagement and the book.

    I have to admit to having written negative reviews of books I’ve read – simply because I’ve not enjoyed them and wanted to say so.

    Whilst there’s absolutely no excuse for some of the vitriol expressed in the reviews of your book – most of which appears to be aimed at the author rather than the quality of the writing – perhaps it’s worthwhile taking on board some of the more constructive criticism (I’m sure there is some, somewhere!)

    Best of luck for the future.

    Comment by Vic — April 13, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

  69. On reflection – what Charlene said!

    Comment by Vic — April 13, 2008 @ 7:54 pm

  70. I don’t know how you’ve done it. It’s wonderful to share but Charles Dickens,Anais Nin, Virginia Wolf did not deal with blogs. It’s it’s own deal and you have to protect yourself. Cheers to you for being a pioneer really and to being who you need to be. Good luck.

    Comment by Maureen — April 13, 2008 @ 8:47 pm

  71. Petite —
    I think you’re very brave — writing the blog and the book and putting yourself out there.

    You did it (the book) and we’re glad. Please keep on writing (“bird x bird”) — you inspire.

    Ciao,

    Comment by juju la moko — April 14, 2008 @ 4:05 pm

  72. I just finished your book, after receiving it for review on my blog (I’ll be part of your Canadian tour.) I hadn’t read your blog before reading the book, but now will be touring your archives and making this site a regular read.

    What I loved: you ‘normalized’, while making vivid, the part that blogging plays in a life, ordinary or extraordinary. You told a story about telling a story – a fascinating story – and told it well. As a blogger, I felt understood. As a mother, I empathized. As a romantic, my heart strings thrummed. As a writer, I admired, and envied. Bravo, from a new reader and fan!

    Comment by Her Bad Mother — April 15, 2008 @ 1:06 am

  73. I picked up the book last week here in Sydney, as some stores (Dymocks) seem to have it earlier than the May release date.

    I came across your blog in 2005, when I was living in Reims. I’ve followed your blog (and life!) ever since. It was so lovely to see your hard work come to fruition and to pick the book off the shelf!

    Congratulations and I look forward to your novel xo

    Comment by Nicnu — April 15, 2008 @ 11:47 pm

  74. I stumbled upon your book yesterday in a bookshop in Australia (in prime position on a shelf at the very front of the shop, you will be pleased to know.) And can I just say, i’m holding you personally responsible for my lack of productivity over the last 24 hours! I’m enjoying it so much!

    Comment by Cara — April 16, 2008 @ 2:29 am

  75. I have been a keen reader of your blog since “Eve” and “James” told me about how you were sacked for blogging. I was interested in reading in more detail about this and the aftermath, plus how the whole book deal came along, so I am disappointed to hear there won’t be a sequel.
    Incidentally, I thought your book was a bit harsh on James (literary licence, I suppose ), making him sound like some baked-bean-eating-Sky-TV-watching ex pat with – what was it now – “faltering French”? Hmmm. Good job I don’t believe everything I read. Good luck with your second work of fiction.

    Comment by kipper — April 17, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

  76. I thought Lover was a translator? Faltering French? Can’t be right…

    Comment by happyforyou — April 18, 2008 @ 11:26 am

  77. Um. I beg to differ.

    James had SkyTV (great for his daughters’ English), we ate a lot of English food together (I guess two Brits together fall into those habits) and while he is a translator – translating French to English of course – he never studied French and is nowhere near bilingual. I certainly didn’t intend to paint an unfair picture, and if you know “Eve”, you’ll realise how much potentially juicy stuff I left out in order to repect their privacy.

    Comment by petite — April 18, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

  78. I like your PM report. Very grown-up and neessary to your development as a writer.

    I understand the difference between a blog and a book; between private and public personae; and the need to stay true to your blogfans, who made PA possible.

    I await your second book with greater interest, even, than your first.

    Now you and he are married, please stop using the epithet ‘Boy’ in your blog. Either you see it, or you don’t. I trust you do.

    andrew

    Comment by andrew — April 19, 2008 @ 11:40 pm

  79. But I’m not married yet! When I am, I shall be making a change.

    Comment by petite — April 20, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

  80. I’m one of the people who liked this blog better in the ‘old days’ — when everything appeared safe and cosy and you seemed to be in love with Paris and with Mr Frog. But maybe your posts only skimmed the surface then and you kept back far more than you do now. I felt sad when you split with Mr Frog — couldn’t you two just have stayed together for my sake?

    I would have liked more of ‘Paris’ in the book — but overall I loved it and admire how brave you were in it
    (and you really proved you can write up a storm). Mr Frog came out of the whole thing really well — I’d like to ask if you struck up a deal with him over that before publication but I know that is none of my business. Anyway, I think Mr Frog must have built up quite a little fan club of his own now.

    Comment by Scottie — April 20, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

  81. I have been reading your book all weekend and am struggling to put it down! I was so glad to find that your blog is still going strong and that there is more to read. I love you writing style – the way you describe your emotions and surroundings. I particularly loved the descriptions of Paris and Parisian life. It’s making me all the more excited about a forthcoming trip to Paris in the Autumn!

    Will look forward to more books x

    Comment by Angela — April 20, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

  82. I’m keen to read your book but I’m waiting for the paperback, I’m afraid!

    I’ve just been on a creative writing course at the Arvon Foundation in Devon, and guess who the guest speaker was on Wednesday night? Your agent! I’m amazed that he was able to make the time given that it’s London Book Fair this week, but he certainly seems to have plenty of energy.

    Comment by Caitlin — April 21, 2008 @ 10:02 am

  83. PS I think it’s best not to read reviews. Even good reviews are tempered by criticism – it’s in the DNA.

    Comment by Caitlin — April 21, 2008 @ 10:03 am

  84. Good luck with the novel. I think first person autobiographical is a starting point in writing and that we grow in maturity as we try to see through the eyes of others.

    Comment by Mavis — April 23, 2008 @ 7:54 pm

  85. i’ve been reading your blog for a year or so, and come back to it because it’s ”bookmarked,’ and because it is so well-written. i’ll probably buy your book when i see it in Barnes and Noble in Arizona, whenever that is. (i would have never even considered buying it, seeing it in a bookstore, if i hadn’t known you from the blog).

    i just finished reading all of the 84 or so posts above, and i am amazed at how personal they are — so much evident concern for you and your life. do you leave the ‘snotty’ ones out? or do those folks not bother to post?

    Comment by rob — April 27, 2008 @ 6:01 am

  86. Hey Petite,

    I am halfway through an ARC here in Canada and must say that I am thoroughly enjoying it. I must admit that I did not loyally visit your site in the past, only sporadically, so that is making my reading judgment-free for the most part.

    But I can relate to so much of it, as a blogger, a mother and a Paris-phile. It’s totally working for me and the suspense has me reading with fervour.

    So fret not. As you said, blogging gives readers a sense of ownership. A reader recently emailed me to ask me to tone down my use of curse words — something I felt was a huge part of who I am and my writing style. I took it to heart for a moment and then said, Fuck it. ;)

    Congrats on the book and I look forward to meeting you (albeit via webcam) at your blogger book launch in Toronto in June.

    Comment by scarbiedoll — April 28, 2008 @ 3:41 am

  87. I have just finished your book after finding it in a local bookstore (in the uk) whilst looking for material to amuse myself with on the eurostar. I felt compelled to introduce myself as ‘la plus petite anglaise’ as it seems we are on a similar track, I have fallen in love with la belle France and I have plunged myself into a somewhat more rural french existence. You have caputured moments which I found hard to explain to non ex pats so I thank you, they will all be instructed to read it. And, I agree, they will never master the art of tea making or understand why salt and vinegar crisps are so much more superior to bolognese.

    Bisous

    Comment by Iona — April 29, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  88. Hi Catherine,

    You do realize of course that when the novel does come out, your readers will trawl it in the minutest detail for concealed snippets of your own life… I imagine that would be even more frustrating than just letting it all out in an overt autobiography.

    Congrats on the book – ’twas just great!

    Comment by Amanda — May 2, 2008 @ 9:57 am

  89. Hi Catherine,

    I finished reading the book last week, and I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. Reading the post above, I absolutely agree with the choices you made when writing. It’s a shame that people have put you in a position where you obviously felt a need to somehow justify your choices, as if they weren’t yours to make in the first place.

    I’m a longtime reader (and infrequent commenter) of your blog, and was thrilled when I read about your book deal. I suppose it’s the secret (or maybe not so secret, in some cases) dream of most bloggers to get noticed in such a profound way, and I found it very satisfying to watch as you succeeded, proving that it is indeed possible to be lifted out of obscurity and rewarded for your writing talents.

    You should be proud of what you have accomplished, and if anyone tells you otherwise, just point me in their direction and I will lash them with a wet noodle. :-)

    Comment by Liza R — May 12, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

  90. Hi Catherine

    I bought your book last week saturday as I was buying a gift for a girlfriend who had turned 40. I had promised myself I would not buy any more books for myself, considering the pile of books next to my bed. But I could not resist the tempation. So I bought a gift for a friend and one for myself. I had a weekend get away by myself on an island, without husband and kids and was alone with your book, which I finished in one day. This book being the first book I read since I was on summer holiday last year…
    I loved your book – actually you are living my imaginary live I’m having in a parallel universe. The live i’m daydreaming of stuck in traffic jams or at the office. Your book does make me want to go to Paris, but also makes me want to read your blog (which I hadn’t done before last weekend when I saw your book).
    As for the merits of your book, as a novel (a non fictional plot with storylines) I must say I’ve read better ones. But you sure can write and I think you’ve found your destiny. Keep on writing, please!

    Dutchgirl

    Comment by Dutchgirl — May 25, 2008 @ 8:00 pm

  91. Hi Catherine,

    I spent my weekend just past reading your book and I really enjoyed it. Like some out there I found your book first then your blog. Congratulations on coming through what must have been a very trying time and on your marriage!

    So nice to see your ending is a happy one :-)

    Sally from The Chic Girl’s Guide to Rugby

    Comment by Chic Rugby — June 16, 2008 @ 5:57 am


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