Verdict: Documents Grendlin's daily meanderings through modern-day Paris, a journey that's mainly interesting to Grendlin.
While Frances Grendlin’s previous “Culture Shock!” books provided handy travel advice to intrepid Americans, her recent hybrid memoir/fiction/travel guide, Paris, Moi and The Gang, simply documents Grendlin‘s daily meanderings through modern-day Paris, a journey that’s mainly interesting to Grendlin.
Admitting her story is “memoir with a little bit of fudging thrown in,” the reader is left without a plot or even a clue as to what actually happened during her year in Paris. Grendlin’s wise decision to include witty quotes and thoughtful observations of Paris from great writers like Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway improves the book greatly, though Grendlin herself remains an outsider to the very culture she’s attempting to enlighten us about.
Munching on Oreos, shopping with tourists and struggling to speak French, Grendlin experiences Parisian life through thick American lenses, at one point observing breezily, “Oh, France has its problems, to be sure, but I am an American here and those problems are not really mine.” The only emotional chord struck here is the underlying pathos of a divorcee with grown children — “no longer could I tell myself I was in extreme late youth” — alone in a foreign country. This is perhaps an unintended subplot, as Grendlin determinedly paints a picture of herself as a social butterfly, aflight in the city of light.
Reviewed by Linda Federico-Omurchu