An intimate look at the arrangements, organization and order of small town French village life, through the eyes of the jovial, wise and well fed chief of police, for “…not a single pig made it to market without some part of it being offered as part tribute part toll to Bruno…”.
He put the grill close to the coals, arranged the steaks, and then under his breath sang the Marsellaise, which he knew from long practice took him exactly 45 seconds. He turned the steaks, dribbled some of the marinade on top of the charred side, and sang it again. Then he turned the steaks for 10 seconds, pouring on more of the marinade, and then another ten seconds. Now he took them off the coals and put them on the plates he’d left to warm on the bricks he’d left to warm on the side of the grill.
The strolling investigator offers up an amiable mix of local types, of those who “evidently conformed to the English stereotype of bizarre affection for animals dressed in gleaming black boots, cream jodhpurs,” of the prissy European officers of hygiene who threatened the taste of the local cheese, of old men who had not spoken to each other since the war.
The reader sometimes sounds as if he’s sucking on bubbles, a kind of terrible English mumbling.
Yes, this is about a French woman who is preparing to be married, about the dozens of chores, duties, invitations, financial arrangements, foods, realtors, contracts and miscommunications fringing the prolonged event called a ‘wedding’. But it is more about the bureaucracy of French life, the stiff protocols, the delicate rules of engagement, the intricacies of public manners and traditions, and the entire merde-ridden fantasy of a plan of the couple.
It is, in short, about the beginning of one couple at the intersection of many others, slowly or not so slowly decomposing, when this couple is located in France, at a time when Americans were even less popular than usual….
Americans weren’t popular this season… The U.S. was embarked on a rescue mission in the Balkans that was seen by the French as a barely submerged drive for world domination…
Tim, the American reporter on the brink of marrying a Parisian woman who buys things in the Pouc, the flea-market, and sells them at high prices to decorators et al., is accused of his intrusive, neo-colonialist birthplace at a party where he meets another American ex-patriate, Clara, the beautiful, vulnerable, devoted wife of a rich, vulgar Hollywood director.
Utterly charming tale of British advertising executive fed up with the petty hysteria of bosses, clients and ex-wives. He quits. He drives to the south of France, meets a beautiful real estate agent, and opens a hotel. But things are not so simple…