Unfortunately this felt very dated because it has taken much too long for this memoir to be published. What a surprise it was to learn this all happened in 1995, that’s fifteen years ago, come on ex-pat life has moved on so much since then! It read to me far more like a diary than a novel which I feel means it would have been far better to have been published at the time either in a magazine or newspaper. In fact I think this would have made perfect blog reading, but I am not sure how many were around then? Looking into this I did discover an earlier online presence, see details at the end of this review.
I was really pleased when Chris Dolley approached me asking if I would like to review French Fried for two reasons. Firstly it was to be sent to me in eBook form giving me the opportunity to use my Sony E-Reader and it is an ex-pat adventure. Although not set in Italy but France I felt there would be much that I could relate to. While there certainly was including escapades with fireplaces and tradesman, I was very disappointed as already mentioned by the era it happened in. So much of the bureaucracy written about was way out of date and it still referred to French Francs. I assume this means that Chris Dolley has been trying for many years to get this memoir published and finally has succumbed to the e-book route. I searched for the availability of a hard copy but there does not seem to be one.
Normally a slim volume such as this would only take me a few days to read but it took me five days unheard of. I struggled because of the what felt to me like forced hilarity at times about the unfortunate situations they found themselves in, it was just too much at once. A chapter or two at a time was enough with this almost facetious style of writing, surely at the time they did not find so much humour in what was happening. I also found at times the naivety of the couple rather strange especially as they already had family living in France when they arrived.
As for the identity fraud that the couple suffered well you could not help but feel sympathetic and impressed that they solved the case themselves, but I have to say the result was rather obvious from fairly early on. I guessed who it was anyway, but that of course was easy with all the clues I had been given, not so easy for the Dolleys one realises. It is this story though within the book that makes it different from every other ex-pat memoir as it is almost (but not quite) a detective story.
I honestly think that as Chris Dolley was already an author when he wrote this that he would have been far better using the identity theft plot and writing a thriller. In fact I discovered he did in fact have this very idea himself but changed tack when he found it becoming too funny. What a shame he did not stick to his original idea. I feel badly as the author so kindly asked me to review his book and sent me the eBook gratis, however one has to be honest. I am sure his day to day life if written in the here and now, not tales from the last century maybe as a blog he would have a following.
Learn more about Chris Dolley here or on his Official Website where you will learn he is also a science fiction author and designer of computer games. I also discovered during my research that from 2007, maybe earlier until as recently as August 2010 Chris Dolley was writing at LiveJournal about these and other experiences.
Update November 3rd, Chris Dolley has taken the time to comment here and I think the link he suggests reading is relevant and interesting so am including it as a link here