The publisher promises a second volume of Paul West’s adventures, which is good news. For Clarke’s sake, let’s hope he...


The caustic tale of getting a French education the hard way.

British journalist Clarke has camouflaged the particulars, but the gist of this work (originally self-published in France) is apparently drawn directly from his own experience. Here, “Paul West,” his 27-year-old narrator, is hired by a French firm to open British tearooms in Paris, improbable as that sounds. And doomed, too, as Paul goes merrily about poking fun at France’s farcically inefficient businesses, home to the most coddled workers in the universe and plagued by strikes seemingly every day. Paul is the object of some impressive snootery for his woeful French, though he soon learns that living in Paris requires much more than the right accent. The ville lumière is for sharks; you mustn’t worry about people liking you, “you’ve got to show them that you don’t give a shit what they think.” This isn’t difficult when it comes to his co-workers, who “don’t give a shit” either. Paul does, however, feel some loyalty to his boss, until he discovers that Jean-Marie is a marauding opportunist with a soupçon of his venality aimed at the new guy. (He tries to sell Paul a bijou cottage in Normandy, undeterred by the fact that a nuclear power station will be built next door.) With much time on his hands, thanks to the French lack of work ethic, Paul spends much of it in the comical pursuit of women. They bring some fresh air into the narrative, allowing Paul to laugh at himself for a change. Despite the country’s economic and political self-absorption, he does fall for France, its style and especially its food. His affection radiates here, a comforting balance to the wicked mordancy.

The publisher promises a second volume of Paul West’s adventures, which is good news. For Clarke’s sake, let’s hope he doesn’t have to live it to write it.

Pub Date: May 9, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-591-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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