Journalist Rosie Millard decided to take her family including four young children on a 14-week trip to discover the French DOM-TOMs (ie the bits of France that aren’t actually in France, like Polynesia and Martinique.) Why?
“Any aspect of French life interested me, but this more than most. Something about their wildly distant positions on the globe, alongside a clear determination to remain French, rather touched me,” Rosie said.
She added that she also wanted to prove to her children that it is possible to survive for 14 weeks without Hannah Montana and 24/7 internet access.
Not really knowing anything about these territories, I was expecting tales of tropical islands and general glamour. But the book wasn’t like that at all. Most of the trip sounds like really hard work, staying in some grim places and eating little other than Campbells soup and croissants (along with a little iguana…) because they were on such a tight budget, and because everything is wildly expensive in these places. I’m not sure I’d want to do it….
Living in France, a lot of the “Frenchness” of these far-flung places really resonated with me, the French tend to be very proud of their culture and defend it fiercely, even if eating a croissant and singing le Marsellaise does feel a little irrelevant on the other side of the world. It was fascinating to read about these varied, far flung places – none of which I have visited – which are all heavily subsidised by France for reasons which are somehow hard to fathom.
It’s a really fun read, plus you feel like you’re actually learning something. But what I most loved about this book was Rosie’s humour and honesty. The trip obviously had its hightlights (Martinique or La Reunion, anyone?) but also had its low points. Rosie and her husband were trying to film a series of documentaries during their trip while also fielding the demands of four children which obviously sometimes led to frayed tempers – which she didn’t shy away from writing about. No disrepect to the Mummy Bloggers, but I do find (and yes, this is a huge generalisation) they tend to paint a somewhat idealised view of parenthood. It’s refreshing to read someone writing about the moments which aren’t so perfect. Travelling with children can, and usually is, great fun, but aspects of it can be exhausting. Especially if you are doing it for 14 weeks.