Posts Tagged With: autobiographical

Sorbonne Confidential by Laurel Zuckerman

Alice Wunderland is an American who has lived in Paris for twenty years.  Suddenly finding herself unexpectedly made redundant, she decides that a change of direction is in order, and resolves to qualify as an English teacher.  After all, surely she should be in an advantageous position, as she is a native English speaker?  Alice launches herself with enthusiasm into the studying the course required for all wishing to find employment with the French education system, but what she found left her dismayed and astounded.  Native English speakers appear to be frowned upon, and in fact, speaking correct English does not even seem to be much of a priority; odd considering that they will be required to teach English themselves.  

Alice discovers that the system is skewed, and disfavours anybody who is not of French nationality.  Passing the required exams almost seems to be a matter of luck.  Disillusioned, Alice decides to investigate further….

This book is based on the author’s own experiences, and it would be interesting to know what the French authorities made of it!  It is very enjoyable, as ‘Alice’ is a warm and amusing narrator, whose frustrations it is easy to understand and share.

Having said that, about halfway through the book, I did think that she was whining somewhat (and her occasional unnecessary ‘sneering’ at some of the other students did not appeal to me, although that is a minor gripe), but I ended up admiring her for at least questioning the system, rather than just accepting it on face value, as so many of her fellow students seemed to do.

Little anecdotes from Alice’s family life (in reality, from the author’s family life) also pepper the narrative, and the parallel between Alice’s difficulty with her course and her daughters difficulty with her schoolwork gives more food for thought.

Overall, an interesting and enjoyable book.

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