translated by Sarah Long
John Murray, HK$109
After 250-plus pages in which she derides the ways of the English, Parisienne wife and mother Hortense de Monplaisir (also known as British 'translator' Sarah Long) lists 10 reasons to hate them, including: they never say what they think; their false modesty; big bottoms; leaden jokes about drunken episodes; and 'being very precise about uninteresting details'. So as not to appear xenophobic she then gives 10 reasons to love the English. Here she covers their eccentricity, Hyde Park, sense of humour and pride in being English. The second list, however, reads as though it was a trial to put together. Not so the book, which is an effortless rant that confirms many cliches and adds a sting to others. Packaged as a comedy, Le Dossier: How to Survive the English may be accurate in parts but rarely is it funny, unless readers are tickled to find out that sex is regarded as an extension of the toilet function (on which subject she explains that 'toilet' is common, 'loo' upper class, 'bog' jokey) and that Brits have a passion for muddy walks and an obsession with the second world war. A reflection also of the way the French see themselves (although Long lived in France for only 10 years), the book is light-hearted but also tedious.