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Book Review 'A Year in the Merde' by Stephen Clarke [Review by Folake Olagunju]

A Year in the Merde is a ribald and sarcastic take on French culture and one British man continual attempts to get through one year of paid employment.

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Hi everyone, Have you ever finished reading an interesting book and be like “Oh my, I wish I could discuss this book with someone?”  Or read a great book that you're dying to recommend to everyone? Welcome to Soul of a reader, where I'll be chronicling my journey as I find the time to read 100 books a year.

There will be reviews, guest blog posts, and asides books, we would have review of poems, songs, movies and other random things as they pop up. I hope you join me for what is sure to be an entertaining time.

This is my first review and it is a fantastic book titled "A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke"

I came across this book by the road side in Ikeja Along, Lagos, Nigeria and I was drawn to the cover, the Eifel Tower, because a close friend has a dream to get proposed on the tower .

From the very first page to the last, the book kept me entertained and I really laughed when I found out the translation of Merde in English ( don’t ask me, find out for yourself lol).  In the book, Merde is both real and metaphor, as it is reported that dogs deposit 15 tons of poop onto the streets of Paris each year, resulting in the hospitalization of 650 people after a slip and fall.  West’s account of learning to cope with the ever-present poop provides one of the many hilarious learning opportunities.

Paul West, an English man was sent to work in France for one year assignment to help set up series of British tea rooms & cafes throughout Paris.

Over the course of the year, he encounters the language and culture of Paris, as he finds himself dealing with complacent colleagues who would rather plan lunch than a marketing campaign, an untrustworthy boss, a sexual relationship with his boss’s daughter, a hive of coquettish but unavailable women, piles of literal and metaphorical merde in general all through the city and its residents.

A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke play

A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke

(Folake Olagunju)


He found out that embarking on strike actions is a second nature to the French, as cleaners waiters and even bus drivers went on strike at will, holding the entire city to ransom. When he suggested the dismissal of an unproductive colleague, West also discovered that work force is one giant bureaucracy, designed to ensure a place for everyone whether they are productive or not.

West realized that in Paris, they work only 35 hours in the week; the year "begins" in September after the August holidays and ends in May, given the number of holidays in June and July.

Though witty, West isn’t really a likable character, as he’s seen as a very self-centered being whose primary goal seems to be getting laid. His hilarious sense of humor and his exploits are entertaining forces that keep readers glued to the book.


A Year in the Merde is meant to be a ribald and sarcastic take on French culture (the food, the constant strikes & protests, the relaxed work habits, etc.) and one British man’s continual attempts to get through one year of paid employment.

He is a wonderful narrator who takes us through his frustrations, accomplishments and failures as he tries to get through a year in the city of love. The story is well told, with just the right balance between understatement and outright hilarity. It is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time and I would rate it six out of ten.

Pulse Rating: 3/5

Recommendation: Good and recommended for those who want a funny, humorous and sarcastic take on French culture.

Folake Olagunju is a Public Relations and Media Executive at Mediacraft Associates Limited. She loves Reading, Advertising and talking selfies. Follow her on instagram @Phorlakee

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