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I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do)

Living in a Small Village in Brittany

In a story that stands above the throngs of travel memoirs, full of gorgeous descriptions of Brittany and at times hysterical encounters with the locals, Mark Greenside describes his initially reluctant travels in this "heartwarming story" (San Francisco Chronicle) where he discovers a second life.

When Mark Greenside—a native New Yorker living in California, political lefty, writer, and lifelong skeptic—is dragged by his girlfriend to a tiny Celtic village in Brittany at the westernmost edge of France in Finistère, or what he describes as "the end of the world," his life begins to change.

In a playful, headlong style, and with enormous affection for the Bretons, Greenside shares how he makes a life for himself in a country where he doesn't speak the language or understand the culture. He gradually places his trust in the villagers he encounters—neighbors, workers, acquaintances—and he's consistently won over and surprised as he manages to survive day-to-day trials. From opening a bank account and buying a house to removing a beehive from the chimney, he begins to learn the cultural ropes, live among his neighbors, and make new friends.

Until he came to this town, Greenside was lost, moving through life without a plan, already in his 40s with little money and no house. He lived as a skeptic who seldom trusts others and has an inclination to be alone. So when he settles into the rhythm of this new French culture—against the backdrop of Brittany's streets surrounded by gorgeous architecture and breathtaking landscapes—not only does he find a home and meaningful relationships in this French countryside, he finds himself.

I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do) is both a new beginning and a homecoming for Greenside. It is a memoir about fitting in, not standing out; being part of something larger, not being separate from it; following, not leading. It explores the joys and adventures of living a double life. He has never regretted his journey and, as he advises to those searching for their next adventure, neither will you.

Photo Credit: Taccone/Hebich

Mark Greenside holds B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Wisconsin. He has been a civil rights activist, Vietnam War protester, anti-draft counselor, Vista Volunteer, union leader, and college professor. His stories have appeared in The SunThe Literary ReviewCimarron ReviewThe Nebraska ReviewBeloit Fiction JournalThe New Laurel ReviewCrosscurrentsFive Fingers Review, and The Long Story, as well as other journals and magazines, and he is the author of the short story collection, I Saw a Man Hit His Wife, as well as The Night at the End of the Tunnel Or Isaiah Can You See? and (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living. He presently lives in Alameda, California, where he continues to teach and be politically active, and Brittany, France, where he still can’t do anything without asking for help.

"One of the nicest of the trillions of books about France." -- Diane Johnson, author of L'Affaire, Le Mariage, and Le Divorce

"This tale of how one man accidentally becomes a thoroughly integrated member of a French village is funny, insightful, and winningly self-deprecatory. (My favorite character may be the nervous insurance agent.) And Mark Greenside's version of rudimentary spoken French is actually a good demonstration of how to communicate in a language you don't know!" -- Lydia Davis, author of Varieties of Disturbance: Stories and translator of In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

"A light, lighthearted, occasionally very funny romp through a region of France not well represented in the travel literature. With his fresh eye and self-deprecating wit, Greenside sketches a wry, cautionary tale for all those of us who are tempted by adventures in foreign real estate." -- Michael Sanders, author of From Here, You Can't See Paris: Seasons of a French Village and Its Restaurant

"Mark Greenside has written a sweet, evocative book about the pleasures and perplexities of buying and owning a house in a small town in France. It's a funny, enlightening journey. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip." -- Richard Goodman, author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France