Paperback review: The Secret Life of France, By Lucy Wadham


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The Independent Culture

At the age of 18, Lucy Wadham left England for France, and ended up staying for 25 years. In this intelligent and elegantly written book she roams through culture, politics, and history in an attempt to convey what is distinctive about the country, while weaving in her own experiences of life across the Channel.

Though she can be archly funny ("French pop music is, by and large, diabolical"; Nicolas Sarkozy is a "libidinous dwarf") Wadham mostly avoids mining Anglo-French contrasts for humour, à la Stephen Clarke or Peter Mayle. But her writing is wide-ranging and intellectually rich, and she draws on the likes of Friedrich Nietzsche and Carl Jung as she explains French attitudes to adultery and female empowerment. Sex and philosophy – that about sums it up.