At Christmas my best looking and most talented and intelligent niece gave me this book. This is just another example of her wisdom and understanding. As it happens I know little about France, I know it is there, I know something vague regarding the history, very vague to be sure, and the gaps in my knowledge are filled by this long very readable and very enjoyable book.
The author has written many other books on France, done TV and Radio at home and abroad and I have never heard of him!
He begins at the beginning as he sees it, the Norman invasion. He discusses how the Normans were not French so France did not beat England. Good start, and he goes on in similar vein. The hundred years war, Joan of Arc (killed by the French then made a saint), Calais, Mary Queen of Scots - which he gets wrong, Champagne, America, Napoleon (who wasn't French), food, wine (which is American) and on and on pointing out things that the French will not like.
The author is English by the way.
This is an enjoyable easy read but there are glaring faults. The English author finds difficulty in understanding that 'England' is not 'Britain' and vice versa. English thugs are referred to as 'Brits,' and Redcoated Brits referred to as 'English!' When I discover his e-mail I will inform him in a full and frank manner of his discrepancies.
This is taken to a worrying level when Mary Queen of Scots comes along. It would appear he has read a book on her by Antonia Fraser for this chapter and this is unfortunate. Fraser is a middle class socialist who has never done a days work in her life. Not only this but she is English! The book she has produced appears to be more concerned with Antonia's problems than Mary's. It is difficult to read a book via another's interpretation of it but it seems to Antonia that poor wee Mary was being bullied by those nasty big men and it's no fair so it is!
This is not the Mary Queen of Scots that I learned about all those years ago!
If his other reading has been so poor it begs questions regarding the rest of the book.
However I must say that blatant racism that I will not mention apart I found it difficult to put the book down! It fair races along containing a great deal of humour as well as interesting details re the relationship between the nations. De Gaulle, you will be pleased to know, comes over just as you expect him! The French thankfulness for Britain saving them twice in fifty years from the Germans is also as you would expect,though again the author fails to understand the British position at Mons. The French let us down badly then and continued to do so for much of the war.
Put on the Maggie Thatcher mask, hold a copy of 'The Sun' in your hand and investigate the happy neighbours next door (to England), you will not be disappointed.
Boney has just read the book!