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Mediterranean Homesick Blues

Book Review: Mediterranean Homesick Blues by Benjamin Chatfield

By Adrienne Benassy

In Mediterranean Homesick Blues, subtitled A Diary of Life-affirming Disasters on the Côte D’Azur, Benjamin Chatfield thrusts us into the dazzling world of the extravagant hotspots of Cannes and Saint-Tropez. He talks about crazy French girls, casual nudity on the beach, the enchanting Southern French accent and the glitzty French Riviera.

Mediterranean Homesick Blues is not a list of the best hotels and nightclubs, nor is it one another soporific travel novel. It is an irresistible journey across the French Riviera, full of witty insights into French culture and society, and a realistic testimony of a year abroad as an English teaching assistant. It will bring back good memories for some, and offer some perceptive pieces of advice to others, if you are planning on living with the Gauls for a while, then this book will no doubt make you discover a hidden side of the South of France.


The language is simple and entertaining without being simplistic, it is the kind of book  which  can be dipped in and out of, enjoying the frequent anecdotes. But once you get going, it is an amusing page turner. If you are French you will not stop laughing at this British view of your culture. If you are English, you will surely learn something about what your neighbours across the Channel think of love, Johnny Hallyday (their national rock star), football or sunbathing "à l'intégral". It is all about what you have always wanted to know but never found anywhere else as Benjamin Chatfield said: “I had read lots of books and articles about living in France and found them clichéd and unrealistic. I had piles of letters and diary entries from my time abroad and my experiences were altogether different – more fun, edgy and real.” 

The concept of a life-changing experience is an omnipresent element in the book. Everything starts in Luton with a French undergraduate fed up with his study hard party hard routine, a young man willing to take the challenge of leading a new life, leaving everything he knows behind – including the unexpectedly missed baked beans. The book ends, after a bumpy but breathtaking ride as an English teaching assistant in Cannes, with the fear of “having (his) life all mapped out again. (He) will run (his) club night, pull a bit cos (He) has a tan. Work hard. Get a 2:1. Get a job. (…) (He) feels like a weird mixture of a man-child”.

And when Benjamin Chatfield says his year in Cannes was life changing, he really means it. There is not a day when he does not think of his experience, and the way his languages skills have been useful throughout his career. Today he runs the creative marketing consultancy OscarMike, lives in London and is also a freelance writer. He has been in charge of various accounts that were related to French brands, and travelled back and forth to Paris more than once. Above all, he maintained extremely profound ties with the place and some of the people he met over there – including Enzo Cilenti who collaborated with the book, who is today an actor, writer and producer living between Los Angeles and London. Chatfield paid an ultimate tribute to the French Riviera by getting married there.

Benjamin Chatfield's wedding
Benjamin Chatfield's wedding


Benjamin Chatfield also gives us tips to understand French baby-language, stressing the difference between “le lolo” (milk for babies) and “les lolos” (boobs). He also explains why Serge Gainsbourg is so important to the French and looks back upon Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist philosophy, not without forgetting a list of 19 boring French classics one should read and how to survive in a French supermarket.

The whole novel is punctuated by a fascination for French women and their “golden triangle of unshakeable self-confidence, extreme feminity and love of casual nudity”. But Benjamin Chatfield does not spare either the moments of extreme loneliness and nostalgia one can feel when nobody really cares about you far from home.

Benjemin Chatfield confidently manages to jump from naked sunbathing to an existentialist guide to French football with a typically dry English humour. All the while, he also tackles the bigger questions of what you really miss when you leave home, how Cannes can be boring as hell when the summer is over, and first and foremost, why one takes a non-return ticket to a different life by setting off for a year abroad. The vivid authenticity and liveliness Benjamin Chatfield demonstrates in this material makes it a valuable testimony as well as an excellent guide for future travellers. 

To buy the book, please click here


31/01/2014 - chatfhs said :

Hi I am Colin Chatfield,

Voluntary genealogist of our surname. Where do you fit in to the 28,000 plus Chatfield's I have on file?

Kine regards

Colin Chatfield

PS I live in the Charente, France now.


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