When good friend and book maven, Metro Mama, asked me to review an advance copy of Petite Anglaise, blogger Catherine Sanderson’s debut manuscript, I was thrilled. She must have known that I would never finish the reading ‘on time,’ but you know what? I read this book faster than any I’ve started, discarded or finished since getting pregnant with Dove. And that is saying something.
I must confess, I was not a follower of the blog Petite Anglaise, though I had heard of it before the book landed in my mailbox. That seemed to make very little difference to my enjoyment of the book, and in fact, may have even been a good thing, as I was not able to (fairly or unfairly) compare the book to the blog; the author to the blogger.
Dubbed, A True Story, Petite Anglaise does not read like the other blog-to-books I’ve read. It did not have the ‘behind the scenes’ bent of Julie & Julia, where I felt like I was getting a glimpse of the grittier, goofier, got-left-on-the-cutting-room-floor outtake blog posts, nor was it practically omitted to enhance the documentary-style feel of The 100-Mile Diet, where the book complimented and expanded upon the very specific purpose of the blog of same.
The blog in Petite Anglaise (the book) takes a kind of secondary role; it’s there, but it serves as a catalyst for action, as well as a quirk or idiosyncrasy that gives the protagonist more dimension. The blog within the story is kind of like a Magic 8 Ball – she puts something out there, shakes it around and gets some direction in return. The story is about Catherine/Petite following those directions, and the journey that they lead her on.
Petite Anglaise, honestly, felt more like fiction – almost like Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, or even like Bridget Jones’ Diary. It felt, in fact, like chick-lit – good chick-lit; great chick-lit – but not really like a memoir. Based on a blog. And I dug that.
I actually think that my BFF got more out of the book than I did; she turned the last page with a better understanding of why we would want to blog in the first place; why we would want to share private thoughts with the (cyber)universe, and how we make lasting friendships through something as impersonal and vague as the internet.
She also fell in love with Paris, which played my favourite character. Sanderson describes Paris with the love/hate relationship of any ex-pat with their adopted home, and we both relished every sentence of it. From the lush brushstrokes of a walk through the park in the rain, to the charm stippling of a corner fruit stand, Sanderson did a lovely, honest job of painting Paris as a vibrant, enchanting city, even if I could have done without the dog poop and second-hand smoke.
All in all, Petite Anglaise is well-written, in an engaging, original style that will no doubt soon be saddled with a clever moniker made up by some pundit in the publishing industry. Blogography? Blogoir? Regardless, Catherine Sanderson’s debut will surely be seen as a pioneer in whatever category it turns into, and the readers will be all the better for it.