Monday, 13 October 2014

My thoughts on "French Leave" by Liz Ryan

source: Facebook

I finally finished Liz Ryan's memoir "French Leave" and I have to say, it was hard to put the book (well, the Kindle) down every night as I always wanted to know what was going to happen!

Liz is just my opposite. She left Ireland around the same time I arrived here. She quit her job, sold her house and happily gave up her daily commute and crazy urban life to settle in the middle of nowhere in Normandy. I left everything in France (which wasn't much to be honest- that's where we differ), and especially my rural life, to build a new life in the city (which thank God, was on the seaside, or I wouldn't have survived).

As I was reading about her daily struggles and how she described her new surroundings, how she discovered the culture, the mentality and the French lifestyle in general, I found myself laughing, smiling and nodding. A lot.

As a French person living in Ireland, I empathized and understood both sides of the fence: The French crazy bureaucracy, the love of wine, the strikes that sometimes paralyse the country, the social etiquette that seems so normal for us French, but can be daunting for foreigners. On the other side, I knew what she was talking about when there were mentions of RTE, Joe Duffy, Galtee sausages or just the description of a country who had gone crazy during the Celtic tiger.

She even talked about Thierry Henry's infamous handball and we ended up in complete opposite situations the following days... Everybody in France apologising to her, all my Irish colleagues slagging me off...

I liked the way she described French TV, politicians, current affairs (riots, strike, protests and so on). I followed all of those events from my couch in Ireland, she was living them, and her accounts were very accurate. 

I found her very honest as well. She talks about France in a very positive way, yet she doesn't romanticise the country. Yes, France is a great place to live, the quality of life is second to none, but if you decide to live there, it's not going to be easy. You'll have to learn the language, make an effort, socialise and basically integrate into French society to be accepted.

Towards the end of the book, she wonders if it's time to go home or if she wants to stay. After all, 10 years is a long time and sometimes homesickness comes knocking at the door... She is actually asking the reader what he would do if he was in the same situation.

"Suddenly, I'm standing at a crossroads, with no maps and no compass. In an ideal world, there'd be some way to keep a foot in both camps, but I can't see how...or that would just be "chicken" anyway, and a shortcut to schizophrenia?"

"What would you do, if you were me?"

I've asked myself the same question. A thousand times. The difference is, I'm married, I have kids and our life is here now. Yet, I still keep the idea at the back of my mind. I can't see myself getting old in Ireland. I'm not really French anymore, but I'm not entirely Irish either. 

And to finish, a quote that I completely agree with:

"France does sensational fireworks, but Ireland does verbal pyrotechnics."

I really enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who wants to have an honest insight about life in France. It's funny, witty, there's action (mainly with the Police), drink, shopping, not that much romance, but hey, you can't have everything!!