When I was looking for a memoir about raising cross-cultural children, my friend Christine mentioned Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson. I was sold when I read the subtitle, “In Paris. In Love. In Trouble.” There’s nothing like a memoir with tension.
I’m planning on visiting Paris for the first time next year, so really enjoyed Sanderson’s vivid descriptions of the city. I want to go everywhere she mentioned. But what really brought me into her story was her honesty and her determination to carry on.
In the book, Sanderson is a British expat in Paris and has lived there for a decade. In her early thirties, she has a two year old daughter with a French guy dubbed Mr. Frog, but the two never married. In the book, she calls her daughter, Tadpole.
Sanderson starts a blog called Petite Anglaise and writes about her life as an expat in Paris, motherhood, and her stagnant relationship with Mr. Frog. This was all when blogs were still relatively new and not all that commonplace. Her readership skyrockets overnight and she’s a celebrity in Paris, although she doesn’t tell anyone at work about the blog for a long time. And then she only confides in her friend and colleague, Amy.
The story kind of shows its age when Sanderson feels a little uncomfortable meeting readers and other bloggers because they are still strangers and only know her online persona. I think things have changed a ton since then and no one would really think it’s weird today to meet readers or other bloggers. But I can see how it would feel awkward back then.
One of her devoted readers, another British expat named James, comments on her posts and sends her long e-mails. The two meet and things move quickly from there. She is so honest about what happens after that and, as a reader, I was rooting for her to find happiness before the book ended.
The only thing I would have changed was to have had her feel less guilty about the way things ended with Mr. Frog. I was certain he was having an affair of his own, from the way she described his behavior. But no matter what happened, he wasn’t completely without fault. (He is redeemed later on and I end up liking his character a ton more by the end.)
Petite Anglaise has had mixed reviews on Amazon and I can only surmise that readers were upset with Sanderson for leaving Mr. Frog. I enjoyed the writing and the pace of the book. The tension was always there and, like I wrote above, the descriptions of Paris were delicious.
I also learned more about raising bilingual children and how Sanderson and Mr. Frog got along after they split.