Author Bryce Corbett – wait a minute. I hesitate to even use the word “author” here. These days it seems like any jackass who can sit himself upright behind a keyboard likes to refer to himself or herself as an “author”.
I wouldn’t refer to Corbett as an author – more like a blogger gone pro. Each chapter of “A Town Like Paris” reads like a long-winded blog entry, riddled with references to his friends & outings as if the reader actually cared enough to keep track of Corbett’s lifeless & bland ancillary characters.
“A Town Like Paris” is an attempt at telling the story of an Australian expat living in Paris. While I am an American living expat living in France who spent more than two years living in Paris, I wondered with each turn of the page where in the hell Corbett’s Paris could be located on the map, because I had never seen the place.
The picture that Corbett paints of Paris is nothing more than clichés & stereotypes that he has managed to collect & string together during his time in Paris. He succeeds at insulting French men & women – the reader is told that French women are difficult, that they play games & are basically all psycho – that is just the way of the French woman according to Bryce Corbett. We’re also informed that French men aren’t as good in bed as Australian men & it must be true since Corbett said so.
Did I mention that he uses the phrase “The City of Lights” to death? I suppose he felt that it helped to add a touch of romanticism to his writing – even if it took using the expression several times per page.
There are few places in the book that as an expat living in Paris, I was able to relate to. It is true that in France, the customer is never right & the entire business of customer service has almost nothing to do with serving the customer. As can be expected, Corbett does mention the strikes in Paris – that the French seem to go on strike simply because it’s a nice day outside. As an outsider living in France, these are a couple of examples of the “quirks” of the country that are sometimes infuriating & at other times amusing. I would have liked to read more about those observations from Corbett, but he seemed to be more focused on recounting his social life & stroking his own ego. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t spend more time pondering why some Parisian kitchens have showers.
In the second half of the book, Corbett tells a stale love story about meeting & falling in love with a fellow Australian who happens to be a showgirl at the Lido in Paris. Had he made a bit more of an effort to focus on the story of these two people rather than constantly referring to his bride as “the showgirl”, it might not have been so colorless and infuriating. Hell, had he fleshed her out a bit & not have been so arrogant about her line of work, it could have even been charming. He never even bothers to give any hints to the reader as to any of her character traits.
It’s obvious that Corbett wants to impress all of us. He states that by telling the reader that a French person will “fall on their knees in reverence” once they discover that one is dating a Lido dancer. I’ve asked a few French people about this one – the truth is, they don’t give a shit.
I got the impression that this book was written for those people completely ignorant of Paris & its inhabitants. But, even more than that, I felt that “A Town Like Paris” was mainly intended to be read by those Australians back home who had never been to Paris & might actually give a damn about the shallow thoughts of Bryce Corbett & whatever events might occur in his life.
The epilogue was one part of the book that I actually liked – not because the agony was coming to an end, but because it was here that Corbett talks about the plight of the expat – being trapped between two worlds, where you always miss home, but can’t go home again without longing for your newly adopted country & how home isn’t quite the same now.
It’s too bad those thoughts were wasted on his book – they would have made for an excellent blog post.