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Petite Anglaise: A True Story Reader’s Guide

By Catherine Sanderson

Petite Anglaise: A True Story by Catherine Sanderson


1. At one point Sanderson writes, “Only the other day I’d lamented on my blog how thoroughly [Tadpole ’s] father tongue had gained the upper hand since her most recent stay with Mr. Frog’s parents so every syllable of English I could coax from her lips right now represented a small victory, music to my Anglo-Saxon ears.” At the same time, she ’s pleased with her daughter’s increasingly effortless bilingualism. Why is Tadpole ’s acquisition of English so important to Sanderson? What competing forces are at play that would account for her fluctuating reactions to Tadpole ’s use of French and English?

 2. In the book Sanderson describes her blog as a “window onto my soul.” She also admits that many of her entries were “cries for help, pleas for attention, or thinly veiled warnings.” What do you believe are the motivations behind her decision to use blog posts as unconscious ways of communicating with the men in her life? What do you think Sanderson’s answer would be to the same question? 

3. At one point in the book Sanderson relishes the fact that a recently purchased powder blue spring coat has an apple green lining that only she can see. Why does she take such pleasure in keeping something like the lining of her coat for her private enjoyment but at the same time lays her life bare to anyone who has an Internet connection? 

4. When Sanderson first meets one of her fellow bloggers she reveals, “I do write personal things, but I hold plenty back too. I make the final cut. I decide what to show and what not to show. All people really get are brief glimpses of our lives.” Do you wonder at what Sanderson might have held back? Are there questions that are raised in the book that still linger for you? If you were to have an opportunity to ask Sanderson any question, what would it be? 

5. Being given access to the intimate details of a person’s life can create a sense of entitlement to offer advice on the actions of that person. Were there times when you wanted to offer Petite Anglaise advice? What advice would you have given her on her relationship with James, her decisions regarding Mr. Frog, or the challenges of motherhood? 

6. Through much of the book Sanderson draws a distinction between herself and her nom de plume as if one were different from the other. Do you think this is a valid differentiation? Why or why not? 

7. As the number of commentators increases on her blog, Sanderson notes that the more she divulges of her own life, the more other people seem compelled to do the same. What do you believe accounts for this phenomenon? Describe a situation where you have revealed more about yourself than you would have liked to and why. 

8. When Sanderson goes to meet “Jim in Rennes” for the first time a friend suggests that Mr. Frog might learn better how to appreciate Sanderson if he had some competition. Do you believe this was her reason for initially meeting James? What were James’s reasons for pursuing her? What is it about e-mail that builds such intense intimacy before even a first meeting, like it did in the case of Petite Anglaise and “Jim in Rennes”? 

9. After her first meeting with “Jim in Rennes,” Petite Anglaise writes that she feels she is now faced with a choice between two possible versions of the future. In the end, do you believe she made the right decision about which version to choose? 
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