petite anglaise

March 25, 2008

Madame Bovary on the métro…

Filed under: book stuff — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:26 pm

Petite Anglaise garnered a couple more (rather tardy) reviews in the British press this weekend. The first was in The Independent, last Friday, and gave me cause to wonder whether I shouldn’t have reinvented Mr Frog as a non smoker or extolled the virtues of Lipton yellow tea in the interests of avoiding clichéd representations of the French.

The second, in the weekend edition of the FT, references Madame Bovary (on the métro to the childminder’s). I really liked this piece – the reviewer seemed to really “get” the book.

And of course I drew no small amount of satisfaction from remembering that my former employer not only subscribed to the FT, but displayed it prominently on the glass coffee table in reception…


  1. Those reviews are pretty good, I agree that the FT one appears to have a deeper understanding of the book than The Independent. The Independent sounds more like a press release rejiggered.

    I have been itching to write something about the book while I have been reading it but am determined to wait till the end. Only a few chapters to go now.

    You should sign the article and send your former employer a framed copy.

    Comment by Daniel — March 25, 2008 @ 1:00 pm

  2. hmmm I am assuming the FT reviewer means that your book could be a modern day version of one of the low brow sentimental books that Emma (Madame) Bovary used to read, where the characters are badly drawn, there are no philosophical insights and no brain power is needed, rather than anything Flaubert would ever deign to burp up. Glad the reviewer highlighted your adept use of cliches.

    Comment by Louise — March 25, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

  3. I have thoroughly enjoyed the book but found some of the reviews a little superficial, particularly the one in the independent. The events, thoughts, pain and elation are so close to my own as to be uncannily eerie!

    Comment by Robert — March 25, 2008 @ 2:13 pm

  4. Say what you really mean Louise.
    Surely tardy reviews are all to the good as it keeps the interest alive and thus helps book sales. No?

    Comment by Pat — March 25, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

  5. Louise – I think you know full well that I never intended to imply that I thought the reviewer was comparing my (low brow) writing with Flaubert’s. Simply that the feeling of discontent and disappointment in the earlier chapters of petite anglaise reminded the reviewer of Emma (Madame) Bovary, the fictional character.

    Comment by petite — March 25, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

  6. Hello there Petite

    I’ve almost finished your book, I’m on page 305, even brought it into the office today. Haven’t raced through a book for ages, too many distractions like Facebook and Nintendo Brain Training to be so focussed.

    I didn’t read a review, hadn’t listened to Womans Hour, or heard anything about your book or blog. The purchase was purely “accidental”; I was in Tesco buying a few bits and pieces before Easter and decided to check out the books & CDs. Loved the title, love Paris, loved the brief blurb on the paper cover.

    Had vowed not to look at the Blog until I’d finished the book but couldn’t resist and I can see I’ve catching up to do as there seems to be a new man in your life. NOW I see you’re on Facebook too. I have been criticised for engaging with Facebook at my age, 61, but I have made real friends, physical friends, out of virtual Facebook friends.

    I’m so relieved there is going to be life here after page 341 of Petite Anglaise!

    Comment by ookymooky — March 25, 2008 @ 3:00 pm

  7. ‘Sanderson has a novelist’s gift for capturing certain eternal situations’ – that’s pretty good from the FT. You’ve had brilliant coverage for the launch your book – many congratulations. You *are* a good writer or you wouldn’t have got this far.
    Best wishes for your new novel,
    Susie Vereker
    Would you like to join the Romantic Novelists Association? Google to find their website.

    Comment by Susie Vereker — March 25, 2008 @ 3:09 pm

  8. I thoroughly enjoy your blog, and can’t wait to read your book. In reference to the comments above, there is another possibility. Perhaps the reviewer found that your book, like “Madame Bovary,” told a story about a woman (yourself) who, instead of accepting something less than what she desires, “chooses to struggle.” I confess I am entirely inspired by the novel/film LITTLE CHILDREN here. The main character, Sarah, finds something “beautiful and heroic” about “the hunger for an alternative and the refusal to accept a life of unhappiness,” and I look forward to your similar tale.

    Comment by filmfangirl — March 25, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

  9. LOL – that’s hilarious. Do you still have friends there, who you ask to leave the paper open on the right page? :)

    Comment by teeweewonders — March 25, 2008 @ 4:12 pm

  10. Great review from the FT!!

    When will we be able to read The Boy’s review?
    Couldn’t he do a guest post?

    Comment by happyforyou — March 25, 2008 @ 4:12 pm

  11. Louise, that amount of sarcasm can’t be good for you!

    As for your own writing style, your little “deign to burp up” is simply wonderful. Really.

    Comment by happyforyou — March 25, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

  12. I am eager to read your book.Nevertheless,I can,t find your book in the bookshops nearby.Is that book put in circulation in Hong Kong?

    Comment by ao.roamer — March 25, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

  13. All those reviews fail to point out the best thing about your book: there’s more over here! I hate it when I finish a book I love and then there’s nothing to read about how the situation progressed or how things came to be (even though I have most of his books and letters, I wish Jack Kerouac had lived in the age of blogging – would have been interesting! – I’m writing a paper about him). But when I finished your book I still had the weblog with more reading material. A definite plus. :)

    Comment by Marjolein — March 25, 2008 @ 7:01 pm

  14. Loved the book and finished it in record time.It’s no great literary masterpiece but a jolly good read .

    Comment by caroleann — March 25, 2008 @ 7:28 pm

  15. Finished the book this weekend.LOVED IT. Can’t wait for the sequel… Just over 24 hours…I noticed a definite absence…mention of the doocing(spelling??)…was it left out intentionally? If this has already been discussed here and I missed it I am sorry.

    Comment by MadameP — March 25, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

  16. That’s pretty good karma with your FT article being in your former work place! Hope they enjoyed reading it!

    Comment by Babycakes — March 25, 2008 @ 8:36 pm

  17. Finished your book and it made my easter weekend complete. Total bliss in our country cottage, sitting in armchair at the window, with cat purring in my lap, sipping wine and reading your book…
    Thank you, Petite.

    Comment by Änn — March 25, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

  18. Catherine
    Its just struck me that the word “narcisistic” has been used by a couple of reviewers but is that (how can that be) a bad thing? The book is about you, your family, your emotions, your life. How could such a bookbe anything else. And as I said previously, we may feel voyeuristic sometimes, but heck, that’s part of the entertainment value – and if books should be anything, they should be that!

    I chanllenge any autobiography not to be narcisistic!#

    All the best

    Comment by Andy — March 25, 2008 @ 8:47 pm

  19. What’s the line : Living well is the best revenge ….

    Or something like that .

    Being published and having your review of the book you wrote sitting on the office waiting room (of the b******s the sacked you ) is the best revenge ;-)))


    Comment by ==Alaska — March 25, 2008 @ 8:47 pm

  20. …once again wishing English was my mothertongue

    Comment by carien — March 25, 2008 @ 9:22 pm

  21. I also thought the Madame Bovary allusion was comparing the character and situation of Petite / Mme Bovary rather than the 2 books as a whole… but if Flaubert had been a blogger maybe things would have been different!

    Comment by Marianne in Paris — March 25, 2008 @ 11:21 pm

  22. I like your new name as per the Independent review: “Mme Blog”. It feels like ages since I read your book – perhaps I should read it again.

    Comment by Pierre L — March 25, 2008 @ 11:22 pm

  23. filmfangirl- Surely you cannot have come away from Mme Bovary thinking that she is anything other than spoilt, selfish, vain, and a bit of an idiot? I wouldn’t say that flitting between whichever man most took interest in me at any one time was a particularly ‘heroic’, nor is running up enough debts on fripperies to almost bankrupt a loyal, if slightly tedious husband, not least committing suicide beacause I cannot cope with the consequences of my own actions/vanity. (Not to say that Petite has done any of the above, btw, although she should be congratulated on painting a not always entirely flattering portrait of herself in the book. And yes I have read it).

    I’m all for people (not just women!) making the best o themselves, realising ambition. But to admire Emma’s quite frankly disgusting behaviour, lauding the ‘choice for struggle’ over the hurt and pain caused to those around you is ridiculous and indeed childish in the extreme. With rights come responsibilities.

    (Lecture over)

    Comment by maia — March 26, 2008 @ 12:26 am

  24. Oh the satisfaction of FT coverage when you know that the dooce-ers will be reading it.

    Stick that in their pipe and smoke it!

    G.I.M x

    Comment by girlinthemask — March 26, 2008 @ 1:24 am

  25. Maia, I think your vision of Emma Bovary is a little simplistic. Flaubert once said “Mme Bovary, c’est moi” and I think he put in this character a lot more than what you say. She is not an idiot even if she lacks an education that women did not receive at this time. She is just dissatisfied with her life, with childish dreams indeed, and a little bit lost in the “real world”. One can understand Emma’s character without “admiring” her but to say her behaviour is “frankly disgusting” is a moral judgement which I don’t find relevant here.

    And I think the comparison of the FT article (Mme Bovary in the métro to the childminder is interesting.

    P.S Sorry about the mistakes in English.

    Comment by Delphine — March 26, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  26. Delphine,
    Your English is perfect! I agree (and apologise) that it is indeed simplistic, and also that there is a little bit of Emma in all of us (not just in Flaubert!). But her idiocy (or perhaps more accurately her foolishness) has nothing to do with her education (or lack of it)- it is a human fault, a tendancy towards vanity which we all have. I judge Mme Bovary as all these things (childish, vain, frankly disgusting) because I think it is wrong to destroy other’s lives for the sake of one’s own. But the main point of my post was not really about the naunces of Emma’s behaviour per se, but rather about Filmfangirl’s admiration for her, which made me a little bit cross (sorry filmfangirl!). Everyone is dissatisfied with their lives, from Eliot Spitzer to the AIDS orphan in africa who would like to go to high school, but has to work so his siblings can eat. The thing which counts is how we go about addressing these dissatisfactions: the Bovary way is not the admirable way.

    Comment by maia — March 26, 2008 @ 12:38 pm

  27. Excellent – if only the FT had known that titbit before they went to press… I’m sure they could have written something humorous.

    Comment by Jonathan — March 26, 2008 @ 12:43 pm

  28. Do you read all your reviews? Even the really negative ones? Some of them must be a bit painful.

    I’ve just been reading some customer reviews on Amazon of your book and hell, some people just don’t hold back! Hope your skin’s thick enough for all those nasty comments…

    Comment by suziboo — March 26, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

  29. Maia, OK, I understand what you mean. I’m just not used to seeing fictional characters from a moral (moralist?) point of view. Of course, she should be happier than an AIDS orphan in Africa, I’ll grant you that, but everybody is not able to cope with their life in the same way. Anyway, I don’t think Flaubert meant her to be admirable, he just described admirably well her life and…er, I don’t really know what I am arguing about anymore.

    Comment by Delphine — March 26, 2008 @ 3:07 pm

  30. Bollocks to all the inane psychobabble with everyone trying to out do each other with bigger & better words and comparisons. It’s a book! No need to dissect, just enjoy!

    Well done Catherine. Am enjoying reading it…… and I’m a 6 foot, 15 stone bloke who likes a beer and football but can also pontificate about literature, including Nietzsche’s influence, Mein Kampf and the writings of the Dalai Lama!!!

    Right! Any chance of a signed (negligee) picture for the locker?

    Comment by Jester — March 26, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

  31. My goodness, what ire I’ve unintentionally stirred up in you, maia! I think we can agree to disagree, no matter what “psychobabble,” as Jester puts it, we all dish out here. Again, I was inspired by a character in another novel, “Little Children,” who eventually learns that her “struggle against unhappiness” can possibly destroy herself and those she loves, unlike Bovary, who sadly never learns this. Simply put, I think it takes guts to ACT at all, to CHANGE your life at all – which is the part I admire (even though I never used the word as you claim, in reference to Bovary or otherwise) in Catherine’s story. Too many people don’t, and THAT makes ME cross.
    Cheers to all,

    Comment by filmfangirl — March 26, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

  32. Hi Petite,

    Massive commendations to you on surviving the “when it rains, it pours” moment/s of your life and giving so many women something to identify with. To hell with anyone who’s less than impressed. I count among your many admirers and would love to read more. Write quickly! We are tapping our toes and waiting for the next book. In the meantime, best wishes to The Boy, Mr Frog and Tadpole.

    Comment by Alexandra — March 26, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

  33. J’ai fini le livre dans l’eurostar hier soir ! ma conclusion: les mecs sot des lâches, ils vous sortent de belles paroles, vous parlent bébé et mariage,mais dès qu’on parle de commitment, il n’y a plus personne. Aussi je suis étonnée que tu n’aies pas parlé du licenciement dans le livre ?!
    en tous cas, all the best in Paris, and hope Tadpole is ok :)

    Comment by elsa — March 27, 2008 @ 12:03 am

  34. I am sending this comment off before I think too much about it, because I do not want to lose my nerve. I intended to wait until I had finished your book, but want to share this. (I am reading it really slowly to enjoy every bit.)

    I believe the FT review was genuinely complimentary, and about your writing. Your book reminded me of Madame Bovary (the novel, not the character) after about 2 chapters, in structure, style, metaphor, and precision of language. NOT in the topic of “bored wife seeks diversion.”

    I admire the way you have presented your story in the book so differently from how you wrote it in the blog. That, Madame, is literature!

    Comment by PJ Carz — March 27, 2008 @ 2:05 am

  35. For heaven’s sake, people, someone who can’t survive negative reviews and rejection slips has no business trying to be a writer. Not every bad review is a jealousy-driven personal attack on the author. Some just may have something from which the author can learn. And if the author is going to be worth a damn (and it takes more than one book for that to be clear) he or she will — in the long run — value constructive negative criticism far more than unquestioning adoration.

    Comment by Passante — March 27, 2008 @ 2:17 am

  36. Hey Petite!,

    Congrats on the great reviews, I’ve read a few and they all seem wonderful. Im in sydney australia and your book doesnt come out here till mid may!! All the girls in the office here have copies ordered for as soon as it comes in we all love you!!

    Comment by kellie — March 27, 2008 @ 2:24 am

  37. Hate when I submit too soon. :( I meant to say that your book reminds me of the novel Madame Bovary in that you told your story in terms of scenes, rather than as a diary of what happened when.

    Comment by PJ Carz — March 27, 2008 @ 3:37 am

  38. It is nice – and inspiring – when things turn out right, when you make a success out of what looked like a major blow… so belated congratulations, well done you!

    Comment by Ariel — March 27, 2008 @ 11:42 am

  39. Just i missed the weekend FT because I was in your in your area perhaps you will know better, if not I recommend it Ile de Re is the jewel in the French cr..! I have to go now to find the article in FT…

    Comment by penelope — March 27, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

  40. Hello petite

    New here, directed from jonnyb’s ad for your book. I liked what i read so went back to the beginning and have read the majority of the years (in a few weeks whilst skiving at work).

    Good luck with the wedding, it felt like as i was getting up to speed i was reaching a happy ending.

    Will Mr Frog be translated literally in the French version?

    Good luck in all to you and yours

    Chin chin

    Comment by duncan — March 27, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  41. I’m happy to report I picked up a SIGNED COPY in the Little Apple Bookshop. This will no doubt be my kids inheritance in a few years time!

    Just wanted to say I enjoyed it immensely and I currently have a waiting list of friends and family from around the world waiting somewhat impatiently for their turn to read it. (I know this won’t increase your sales – apologies!)

    Looking forward to the novel. Keep up the good work!


    Comment by Angela — March 27, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  42. petite,

    new to this whole thing!!! not yet finished the book wishing i hadn’t checked out the blog and website as now wondering who on earth is the boy??? using your book as a guide/bible to my own very similar situation right now and hoping you stick with james??????? can hardly bear to read on tonight incase i read what “I’M” going to do and am not ready for it!!

    fingers xd.
    little lady in london. xx

    Comment by jill connick — March 27, 2008 @ 7:38 pm

  43. They’re both intriguing reviews, in their way. More than enough material for an effusive paperback blurb, and so you’re well on the way.

    What’s more, The Indie credits you with no mean feat in refreshing and expanding our long-worn view of Paris, and attributes you with ‘wry and often wise insights into worlds real and virtual.’ Not bad. But how they can equate you with standard expat literature is completely beyond me. You’re not exactly Peter Mayle.

    The FT is more transcendently and superficially glowing, but rather analytically stuffy, as charged. And the close of their piece is rather depressingly chicklit 1.0: ‘Even the best blog is still just a step up to a book.’

    The future of popular publishing: debate.

    Comment by Roads — March 28, 2008 @ 3:46 pm

  44. Petite Anglaise,
    Pretty name! I just read jou’re book,it’s fantastic and in the beginning you’ve got the same dream like me.Go living in the country that I love.I’ve got a lot of respect for you.Because of you’re dreams and you bring you’re dreams to you’re real live.


    Comment by Charlotte — March 28, 2008 @ 6:08 pm

  45. Right, slightly late but as promised, have put a review of your book on my blog. I say “review” it is merely my opinion, for better or for worse. You may like it, you may not, but as the French say “J’assume”!
    Anyway, my intentions were good at least.

    Comment by laroseanglaise — March 28, 2008 @ 8:11 pm

  46. Though I enjoyed the activity of reading a book about Paris haunts – I found it sad that you seem to continue justifying destroying peoples lives and act like it is all okay because you put it out there in print. I found the book a VERY uncomfortable read – it was the voice of someone who just would do anything for attention with a blatant disreguard for others. Perhaps a few years of therapy would be in order here.I am sure from the inside out you don’t view yourself like that , but from the outside in – that is what it looks like. I admit I read the book quickly (ok it is not exactly a rocket-scientist type of book), but sadly I came away with, plainly, not liking you.

    Comment by Patricia — March 29, 2008 @ 4:29 am

  47. Hi Petite
    Just started reading the book and am so enjoying it, hubby away in the U.S. so hope to finish it tonight.
    Noticed on your blog on you mentioned a book, dictionary of sorts by Pierre Desproges. Can you tell me what it is called as would like to read it. I am English, living in a French speaking area of Belgium amd I have been a bit lazy on the language front just lately and your blog has given the push I needed to get moving again. Many thanks. Karen

    Comment by tache — March 29, 2008 @ 10:59 am

  48. @Patricia – I’m getting scores of emails from readers who loved the book, empathised with some or all of the situations I described and found it really struck a chord. But there will always be people who do not and who won’t feel comfortable with the decisions I made.

    I appreciate your honesty – and the fact that you say what you say without vitriol.

    @tache – I had made the word a hyperlink but perhaps Amazon removed it. I read this one first. And recently watched the DVD that Telerama gave away of his (rare) standup performances. The man was a genius.

    Comment by petite — March 29, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

  49. Hi petite

    when will you write stories again? Now that you’re not working,(office) what is your plan? What will you write about I know it’s about your life, but now it’s different for you -maybe do you have any short stories, essays- in mind?

    Comment by pchenge — March 29, 2008 @ 12:38 pm

  50. Hello,
    I read your book and I found it very nice!
    I have a few questions:
    How old is Tadpole now?
    Do you have a relation?
    How is it with Mr Frog (wich I found a pretty cool name;), does he have a relation?
    Are you stil living in the house that you bought in your book?

    Bye bye!
    Sanne from the Netherlands!
    Ps: I like your blog!

    Comment by Sanne — March 29, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

  51. Catherine,

    Just off the Amazon review site for your book, it makes quite depressin reading. I wonder why people are so cruel, judgemental and hasty with their harsch critique and judgement upon you dear self.

    You are a young women, you moved to Paris, got a boyfriend and a job, a tadpole, got bored with boyfriend, got new boyfriend, didnt work out,got sacked. got outed, got book deal, got new boyfriend and book published.

    Good for you. You’ve made a few bob in the process, can buy your family a nice life in Paris/wherever etc.Choices.

    Good luck to you.

    As you well know, its hardly a significant moment in litetary history.

    But the story is yours and that is what matters now.

    Comment by pablo — March 29, 2008 @ 8:23 pm

  52. P’tite: thought you might enjoy the following:

    Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.’

    P.G. Wodehouse, “The Luck Of The Bodkins”, 1935

    Beau who can actually see blue sky in a dismal day
    in Seattle

    Comment by Beau — March 29, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

  53. I have just finished reading the book.

    It was honest – it’s sometimes difficult to cast accurate insight into our own lives but you have managed to be.

    A brave woman starting a new life path. Tadpole is a lucky young lady to have such a strong and independant role model…

    Comment by EJ — March 29, 2008 @ 11:20 pm

  54. I happened upon your book in my local Sainsbury’s (only 3 left on the shelves!) and had to buy it!

    I’d intended to buy it some time but faced with an empty trolley and ‘our petite’ available NOW – there just wasnt a choice!

    Comment by sooz — March 30, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

  55. I thought Petite’s book was great.

    Comment by Katy Newton — March 31, 2008 @ 12:41 am

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