Home > Personal Posts > Happy anniversary, Book Around The Corner!

Happy anniversary, Book Around The Corner!

Two years ago, I started a crazy adventure: this blog. My first post was about Romain Gary. Of course. It took me hours to write it. Later, I published an entry about the difficulty to write in English and if it’s still not easy, it’s not as difficult as before.

Before Book Around The Corner, I’d never visited a blog or commented on a forum. I just typed how to start a blog in a search engine, found help on a French site and discovered that WordPress was mostly used by Anglo-Saxons. Exactly what I was looking for, so WordPress it would be. The first months, I didn’t talk about this new hobby. People around me don’t have a blog, an ebook or even a web phone. I knew they’d think I was crazy. Now I’m more open about it but when I explain that I blog about literature and in English, they look at me as if I were an alien embodied in a human envelope. They don’t know what they’re missing, the fun, the exchanges, the discoveries.

I even owe my new job partly to this blog as it improved my English so much that I had my “Frenchness” recently questioned during a business lunch because a) I don’t drink wine b) I can speak English properly. The puzzled man joked that he was at loss: what kind of a Frenchwoman that could be?

To English speaking natives reading this blog I’ll say that I love your language. I’ve always enjoyed learning it. I wasn’t even put off by the first semester of class that had us repeating endlessly fascinating dialogues such as: Where is Brian? Brian is in the kitchen. In the kitchen? Yes, he’s in the kitchen. (My husband remembers it too and a French humorist made a sketch out of it. Just to point out I’m not exaggerating.) OK, I have to admit George Michael did more for my knowledge of should-have/would-have/could-have phrases than my teachers. Now I’m thinking that Germany lacked of something in pop music and that’s probably why I never got past Bernd and his Moped. As a result, I can’t read in German and I still want to learn more about the English language. The French is more flexible in its syntax but I love the elasticity of the English to create new words and expressions.

That said, English-speaking bloggers need a word to name their articles, a special word that isn’t review. French bloggers have a nice one for their posts. They call them billet. (pronounce beeyay) I like this word. A billet doux is a love note you pass to your lover, a billet d’humeur is a column in a newspaper, always an opinion, not a professional review. So you’ll hear about billets now, no more reviews because sometimes I write love notes about books, sometimes I’m a little provocative and most of all, literature isn’t my profession.

I was thinking that some of you might come to France this summer and I’d like to suggest a visit to Metz, a city only distant from Paris by a ridiculous 1:15 hour of TGV (high speed train). It’s an old city, the Romans named it Divodorum. Its architecture shows the centuries: Roman baths in the basement of the Museum, a church and a square from the Middle Ages, a gorgeous cathedral with stained-glasses by Chagall, buildings dating back to the Louis XIV era, gardens in the city centre, the romantic banks of the Moselle river, a railway station as a witness of the German occupation from 1870 to 1918. I’m uploading pictures for you. This is the city I think of as my hometown, my favourite city, the harbour I need to come back to once in a while.

But enough about me. I thank you for reading my billets, commenting when you feel like to, following me in my little escapade from everyday life and for catching the little literary bubbles I blow from France to you, wherever you are.




Metz: the cathedral

Metz: the stained glasses in the cathedral

Metz: the banks of the river Moselle

Metz: Place de la Comédie (Theatre/Opera)

Metz: A quaint fromagerie (cheese shop)

Metz: a typical building

Metz: La Belle Epoque

Categories: Personal Posts
  1. April 30, 2012 at 12:14 am

    And last night I was thinking how great it is to have a French friend who pointed me in the direction of Gang Story (Les Lyonnais).


    • April 30, 2012 at 12:19 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed the movie, now you need to find the last Guediguian. Something tells me you’d like it.

      Nice images of Lyon and the North of the Isere department, in Les Lyonnais. It’s based on a true story.


      • April 30, 2012 at 6:27 am

        I read that it’s based on the memoir of Edmond Vidal. The other film you mention still isn’t available yet, but I’m watching for it.


        • April 30, 2012 at 8:25 pm

          Edmond Vidal, an adventurous name, don’t you think? Almost like Edmond Dantes in Dumas.


  2. April 30, 2012 at 12:36 am

    Congratulations, et joyeux anniversaire! I am a regular visitor here, et J’aime les billets, especially the ones about French books that I’ve read (in English, obviously). Love the photos too, I really wish we’d allowed an extra day in Paris to visit, it looks beautiful.
    BTW You are not alone: most people in my f2f world also have no idea about the rich, exciting international cyberworld of the book-blogger. They think football is exciting – pah!


    • April 30, 2012 at 8:20 pm

      Thank you Lisa and great French!
      About French books, you might want to try one of the Philippes (Besson, Claudel, Djian, Delerm)

      Metz is indeed a beautiful city, it deserves more visitors.

      I’m afraid football seems more exciting than books to lots of people. I can’t see the draw but there’s no accounting for taste.


  3. April 30, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Two years, that’s wodnerful. The blog has turned into something substantial. It is always a pleasure to visit.

    Metz looks so appealing. I may well visit France again this summer – vague plans are becoming slightly less vague – but Metz is probably in the wrong direction.

    I am going to read Romain Gary soon – May, June.


    • April 30, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      Thanks Tom.
      Another visit to France? Great! Let me know if you come anywhere near Lyon. Nancy is about 45min from Metz and it’s also beautiful. So is Strasbourg, about 1:30 drive away.

      I’m looking forward to your response to Gary. Which book will you read? Have you decided yet?


      • April 30, 2012 at 8:27 pm

        I have Promise at Dawn jotted down here, so that one, I guess.


        • April 30, 2012 at 9:05 pm

          Great, it’s a good one. Here is an appetizer:

          Je découvris l’humour, cette façon habile et entièrement satisfaisante de désamorcer le réel, au moment même où il va vous tomber dessus.

          (I discovered humour, this clever and entirely satisfactory means to defuse reality at the exact time it’s about to fall down on you)


  4. April 30, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Joyeux anniversaire! Time goes by so quickly, I still remember the first time I visited your blog. It was one of the first.
    I’ve never been to Metz. One day… Are there novels set in Metz?


    • April 30, 2012 at 8:27 pm

      Yes, times goes by really quickly.

      Metz is only three hours drive from your home, you’re the closest one, even closer than me!
      I’ve never read any novel in Metz, only Lorraine Connection, a crime fiction novel based on a true story and that is set in the industrial Vallée de la Fensch.


  5. April 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Congratulations! Billets, a much better word. Anyway, this is easily one of my favourite blogs so I’m glad you’ve kept with it.

    Metz looks absolutely lovely.

    I guess I should finally buy a Romain Gary in celebration of your anniversary…


    • April 30, 2012 at 8:32 pm

      What a sweet comment to receive, thank you.

      That would be a great anniversary gift, if you decided to read a Romain Gary. Promise at Dawn is a good one for you.


      • April 30, 2012 at 9:59 pm

        I’ve placed an order for it.


        • April 30, 2012 at 10:24 pm

          Excellent, I can’t believe it. Too bad your work schedule doesn’t allow readalongs, you and Tom could have made a team.
          I hope you’ll like it and I’m genuinely looking forward to your billet about it.


  6. April 30, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Happy blog anniversary! I only recently discovered your blog and am really enjoying it.
    The pictures of Metz look beautiful! The only connection I have with the city was that I was once kicked off a train there by a very rude SNCF conductor because apparently I had “the wrong ticket” (which we had bought specifically to travel that route – to this day it’s a mystery to me who made the mistake, SNCF or the German railway company who had sold us the ticket). Along with two friends, we spent some very long hours at the Metz train station from three until six in the morning until we could catch the next train. So my memories of the city are slightly less than fond, thanks for making me want to actually visit the place 😉 !


    • April 30, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      Hello, thanks for visiting, I need to discover your book too.

      I’m sorry Metz is linked to such a terrible night in your memory. I hope you’ll be able to enjoy the city through its gardens, its museums (there is a branch of Beaubourg) and its monuments instead.


  7. April 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Congratulations, Emma. It’s an achievement to be proud of. Wishing you many more happy blog anniversaries 🙂

    And the photos are gorgeous.


    • April 30, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      Actually, I’m more happy by the fun it brings than proud.

      I’m glad you enjoy the pictures too.


  8. April 30, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Happy Anniversary! I love your language, too, and billet is just a perfect word for a blog post. I am in awe of the fact you write in English – love French as I do, I wouldn’t dare risk my thoughts in it. And I do love the mix of French and English books here.


    • April 30, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      Thank you.
      I like billet too, it holds the idea of intimacy that goes along with reading. Writing billets about books is a bit intimate or private, I don’t know the best word for it.


  9. leroyhunter
    April 30, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Congratulations Emma! Quite a milestone. I love your blog for the new discoveries, the strong opinions and the intelligent discussions. I visit most days even if I don’t always have anything to say.

    And special thanks of course for letting me dip my toe in the blogging world last year…


    • May 1, 2012 at 8:35 am

      Thanks Leroy for visiting so often and for commenting.

      If you want to do another guest post, just contact me.


  10. May 1, 2012 at 1:04 am

    Happy Birthday, Emma! I enjoyed looking back at your early posts, to see where it all began. It’s good that you were getting comments right from the start. Took me ages to start getting people to read, let alone comment! Thanks for posting the pictures of Metz – looks like a lovely town. Am planning a big European trip in a camper van at some point, so will have to make sure I include Metz on the itinerary.

    I have to say, I kind of like the fact that in English we only have the word ‘review’, and everyone writes reviews whether they’re a critic for the Times Literary Supplement or an amateur book-lover. Seems democratic. I don’t think you need to be a literary professional to write a review. That said, I love the idea of billets as love notes to a book, so will look forward to reading those. Call them what you like, I enjoy reading your stuff, and wish you many happy returns 🙂


    • May 1, 2012 at 8:44 am

      Hello Andrew,

      I owe my first comments to Max and to Proust, actually, since I discovered his blog through his billet about Swann’s Way and then he was curious enough to look at who I was. Can it get better than meeting bookish friends thanks to Proust?

      I understand your point about “review” and democracy. What I meant is that what I write isn’t documented enough to be a review. It’s mostly my opinion, I don’t do researches on the writer (I have little interest in writers’ bios) or on their literary current or the historical context. Or if I do, it doesn’t go beyond checking Wikipedia.


      • May 18, 2012 at 9:47 pm

        Hi Emma,
        Proust is certainly a great person to introduce new friends! Yes, I see what you mean about the difference. I suppose that a really good professional reviewer will do all that research and bring the full literary context to bear. I’ve also read some newspaper reviews that were just opinion, really, with little or no apparent research. Maybe French reviewers are more diligent 🙂


        • May 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm

          Not really. That’s why I’d rather read billets by book bloggers I trust than reviews in papers and magazines.


  11. Brian Joseph
    May 1, 2012 at 2:46 am

    Happy Anniversary Emma! Let there be many more!

    Whenever a new post goes up on your site, I know that there is something very interesting to read, whether I know anything about the topic that you are discussing or not!

    You also live in a very beautiful place! My wife’s uncle and his wife are coming to visit us from Nancy in two weeks. I believe that they are not too far from you.


    • May 1, 2012 at 8:48 am

      Thank you, Brian.

      I don’t live in Metz anymore, the unemployment is too high there and my husband could never get used to the climate. But we visit several times a year.

      How funny your wife’s family is from Lorraine too! Nancy is about 45 min from Metz but its history is very different. The Place Stanislas is gorgeous.


  12. May 4, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Congratulations. I’ve only fairly recently discovered your blog, but I’d been hoping for quite some time to find something of this sort – a Franco-Anglo book blog. I spend a couple months of every year in France (Paris for friends, Rodez for relatives, usually somewhere else for a break) and have finally gained some ability to read with relative ease in French. So it’s quite a pleasure to read your billets, and I particularly like your juxtaposition of the French and English. I must confess that I’m terribly envious of your capability to write so well in your second language; my writing in French is a catastrophe.

    Your “Brian in the kitchen” comment made me think of Ionesco’s purported rationale for writing The Bald Soprano, in which – if I recall correctly – he noted that in the language textbooks he was using in school, he was learning marvelous things he hadn’t known before, things like “Jane has a dog. The car is red. Brian is in the kitchen.” etc. etc. Every little bit helps. Ciao!


    • May 5, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      Thanks for your kind message. It’s great to discover another reader who can read in French.
      I write the quotes in both languages so that you can have access to the original, which is crucial when I translate the quote myself.

      PS: I’m thinking of visiting Seraillon, l’Ardeche isn’t far from where I live.


      • May 5, 2012 at 11:25 pm

        Emma – Please let me know if you make it to Seraillon – I’d be thrilled to hear your impressions. Though it’s probably six or seven years since I was there, I’m not sure I’ve passed a more pleasant afternoon since – most of it spent wading and sitting in the ice cold river on a very hot day, with a late-afternoon snack up by the mill afterwards.


  13. May 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    well done on two year emma ,all the best stu


  14. May 12, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Billet is a nice word 🙂

    By the way, I used to live very near to Metz, on the border in a small town called Sarreguemines. Not the best year of my life, but it was a pretty little place 😉


    • May 12, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Thanks, I like the word billet too.

      I can’t believe you lived in Sarreguemines. What are the odds to have a British guy now living in Australia who has also spent a year in Sarreguemines?!!


  15. May 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Happy blog anniversary! Two years! That means I have only been around for a little bit longer. It is always nice to find there are bloggers who have started around the time I did, because there are so many that have been around for much longer.

    One of the things I enjoy about blogging is “meeting” booklover from all over the world. I think you are one of the few (I admit I haven’t found any others) French bloggers I know 🙂

    I also like the word billet 🙂 Perhaps we should collectively change our use of the word review to it.


    • May 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      Thanks Iris. We have one thing in common – in addition to our love for books and literature, of course – we don’t write in our native language.

      I like your Dutch literature month, I’d like to participate but I’m not sure I’ll have enough time for it.


  16. May 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Hello Emma, and a belated Happy Blog Anniversary to you. I started my own blog about a year or so after you started yours, and yours was one of the first blogs I got to know, and one that I keep coming back to with pleasure.

    Some years ago, my wife and I had a driving holiday in northern France, visiting some of the great Gothic cathedrals – Chartres, Reims, Laon, Amiens, etc. We missed out on Metz, but that is certainly on our list of places to visit – especially after seeing the pictures you have put up here.

    And I still find it hard to believe that a French person could refrain from drinking wine! 🙂

    All the best, Himadri


    • May 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      Thanks Himadri.

      Too bad you missed Metz, it’s worth visiting. Perhaps another time, with a trip to Alsace and Burgundy, both great places for wines.

      Talking about wine, I only drink champagne. That sounds snobbish but it’s only due to politeness. Usually, when there is champagne, there is a special occasion to celebrate and it’s rude to give a toast with a glass full of water. Otherwise, the smell of wine (especially red wine) is such a put off that I can’t drink it.


  17. TBM
    October 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Metz looks lovely! I know I’m late, but happy anniversary 🙂


    • October 1, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      Metz is a lovely city. I hope you’ll have a nice time on your trip, whatever the city you pick in the end.


  1. April 27, 2014 at 6:38 am
  2. May 5, 2017 at 10:30 pm

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