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Review: Petite Anglaise, Catherine Sanderson

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.

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9 comments to Review: Petite Anglaise, Catherine Sanderson

  • This does sound rather interesting, though I do have to admit that I am not a big fan of people who cheat on their spouses. I think what interests me most is the perspective on blogging. I am also not one to divulge too much personal material on my blog, but I think it would be cool to read about someone who does, and the consequences that follow that decision. Great review on this book!
    zibilee´s last post …The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor — 432 pgs

  • The title and cover capture my attention immediately. I had no idea this is a memoir of a blogger. I don’t understand putting something as personal as a love letter on the internet, so this may not be for me.

  • I would have thought from the cover that this was a chick-lit book. I’m usually a fan of memoirs, but this one doesn’t really appeal to me that much.
    Alyce´s last post …The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Review

  • Amy

    After a canceled trip to Paris last year I do have a bit of a long distance love affair going on with the city. I could appreciate the Paris parts but could probably do without the personal/affair stuff.
    Amy´s last post …Today’s Book – The Restorer

  • As with Cleaving, I don’t quite understand the desire to blog/memoir-ize one’s infidelity, but I do appreciate a love of Paris. I wanted to move there and fall in love and have cute French babies so I was initially excited about this book — but she seems rather unappealing. Thanks for the thoughtful review.
    Audra´s last post …Q&A with Sally Gunning

  • She’s the Madame Bovary of blogging!

  • I agree, I don’t share a ton of personal stuff on my blog. However, since becoming a blogger I do enjoy reading books about blogging so I think I want to check this out!
    Amused´s last post …May Review Book Giveaway!

  • Hm, I’m not sure this would be my number one pick for my next book but it does look oddly alluring. I think that I’m learning HOW to read memoirs, in a simply “reading” way rather than a judging way. Thanks for sharing!
    Pam (@iwriteinbooks)´s last post …A Face for…the Bookshelf

  • I read this book a couple of years ago when I came across an ARC copy at a library I worked for. I really did enjoy the book at the time, mostly because I was so new to blogging and seeing her quick rise in fame gave me a little bit of inspiration and motivation for my own site. That and I have a mild obsession with all things France and Paris when it comes to books. I do agree with your criticisms about this book though.

    If you think you can stand more, Catherine Sanderson has written a fiction book “French Kissing,” which is chick-lit about a single mom signing up for an online dating service in Paris. Having read Petite Anglais, its really easy to see who the author’s inspirations were for the characters in French Kissing.