Catherine Sanderson decided she was destined for Paris as a young girl and followed through on her dreams as an adult, eventually establishing herself in a solid relationship with a Frenchman, called ‘Mr Frog’, and giving birth to a daughter, appropriated named Tadpole, while living and working in Paris. But as Tadpole begins to grow, Catherine realizes that she is unhappy and starts a blog to chronicle her love affair with Paris alongside her more personal musings about the difficulties of her relationship with Mr Frog. Catherine’s blog brings her into contact with an eager reader, James, opening up a whole new world of conflicts in her relationships and catharsis to a community of worldwide readers.
I’ve heard of the Petite Anglaise blog once or twice and I’m sure I saw this book reviewed elsewhere, so when I saw it at the library I decided to read it. I have no real love affair of my own with Paris but I greatly enjoyed my visit there and, oddly, I love reading about other people who feel passionately about places that aren’t their homes, I suppose because I can relate to them.
Catherine’s life as contained in this memoir read more like a soap opera than anything else. From the minute Jim from Rennes showed up in the comments of her blog, I knew something was going to happen there, and I was proven correct. She goes from staid and ordinary Parisian life with steady partner and child to feeling like a siren again, recapturing the passion lost from her relationship with Mr Frog and coming to learn more about herself as an individual in the process. While I wouldn’t agree with her actions in that she cheats on her partner, it’s a bit like a roller coaster that you have to stay on just to get to the end. I will note that the cover description is very misleading as it doesn’t really cover what happens in this book – she’s never really ‘in trouble’ in the way I’d imagined it.
What comes across in this memoir that I found fascinating was Catherine’s relationship with blogging itself. I’m not a personal blogger; there are snapshots here and there of my life and opinions and I do share big news that comes up, but I’m blogging about books, not about my life, and Catherine experiences many of the pitfalls I would expect from putting life out on the internet for anyone to read. Writing is inherently cathartic and Catherine comes to crave the opinions of her readers. She puts love letters and exchanges out there for anyone to read and she does hurt people she loves in the process. I can’t remember ever previously reading a memoir that covers what happens when your life becomes so glaringly public and you’re not already a celebrity. (Unsurprisingly, she’s almost stopped blogging now for these very reasons).
There were a few things I didn’t like about the memoir, namely that it doesn’t really accomplish much. It’s simply a snapshot of a sensational time in the author’s life and covers quite a few of the dramas she experiences between her relationships, parenthood, blogging, and Paris; it’s not really any one thing because it has aspects of all of these, giving it a haphazard feel at times. It focuses on one person which makes it feel very self-centered, something a lot of memoirs suffer from, and at times I felt worse for the people hurt by the author’s blog than for her, who could at least control what she put out there and what she did.
Still, if you’re looking for the perspective of a very public blogger, snapshots of life in Paris, and the difficulties of relationships, Petite Anglaise is an excellent choice.
I am an Amazon Associate. I borrowed this book from my library.