TOUCHÉ by Agnés Catherine Poirier


A French Woman’s Take on the English
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English society as dissected by a young French writer based in London.

Poirier expands on the Frenchwoman’s-eye-view premise of her regular column for the Guardian, getting off to an interesting start by criticizing the vapid politics of British and French teenagers: “today’s protest has turned into another capitalist enterprise.” However, subsequent musings prove to be much less thought provoking, with the author quickly descending into all-too-predictable tracts about Britain’s relationship with America, the English propensity for apologizing, the failings of the English film industry and the difference between English and French sexual proclivities. A few passages offer a soupçon of original thought—Poirier finds the English obsession with pets unusual and lays into animal-rights activism—but it’s often difficult to figure out whether she’s trying to raise a serious point or simply being “overtly French and provocative.” Addressing the common accusation that the French are too serious, she writes, “seriousness is not boring; it is existential.” Is this intended as humor, provocation or a simple statement of opinion? Poirier’s prose doesn’t really convey which of these applies. Readers may guess it’s the author’s actual belief, since the overriding emotion expressed here is love for her homeland. In the author’s estimation, France can barely put a foot wrong, and she lavishes praise on some very esoteric aspects of her native culture; at one point, she declares her preference for the rudeness of Gallic shopkeepers over the polite service she receives the U.K. Though she asserts that this text was written “in the English language, for an English readership,” it may well prove baffling to non-French eyes.

Veers confusingly from the predictable to the deliberately outrageous.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-297-85234-6
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2007