Friday, June 20, 2008

New this Week: Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson

When agents and editors search the blogosphere looking for projects that will surprise and delight -- the overlooked gems that will wow the world -- Petite Anglaise is what they’re looking for. I’m sure of it. Not just a blog that is smart and jaded -- you can find those anywhere. Just throw a mouse in any direction and see where it lands. To make the successful transition from blog to book, though, it stands to reason that the blogger should not only have something to say, she should have the ability to say it well and in a way that will touch the heart.

Catherine Sanderson’s Petite Anglaise -- new in print in North America this week (it was published in the UK back in March) is just everything you’d want it to be. Perhaps more. There is a sweetness in Sanderson’s prose, but it doesn’t hurt the teeth. Sanderson manages smart and sharp and vulnerable all in quite manageable gulps. More: several Princess Diaries-for-grown-up-girls threads runs through Sanderson’s fledgling effort. This is an effect that is not lessened by the fact that it’s all true (or, at least, true-ish).

The set-up, then: as Sanderson’s story begins, she is living the dream. The young Brit is living in Paris, has a French lover (Mr. Frog), a charming tiny daughter (Tadpole) and everything should be perfect, but it is not. She starts her blog -- the place where Petite Anglaise is born -- as a place to muse over her life. “Petite Anglaise wasn’t really about me,” Sanderson writes early in the book, “at least not at first. For a month or two I filled the blog with what I hoped were witty arch observations about life in Paris,” but after a while -- and perhaps inevitably -- the blog became a sort of living diary, one that could, through comments from readers, talk back. Ultimately, the blog changed Sanderson’s life.

As compelling as all of that sounds, the blog is not the story here. Rather, it is the human tale wound up in fairy tale trappings and -- perhaps most importantly of all -- told with a true storyteller’s eye for the details that count.

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