Monday, March 19, 2012

NEXT UP: Read "Almost French"

I read this book in 3 days. I started it right after I finally finished White Oleander, so perhaps I was just proving to myself that I can finish a novel in less than 4 months.

However, the true reason I flew through the pages of Almost French was that I loved it

Well, maybe I love wishfully thinking of future visits to Paris. If you couldn't tell from my recent Paris Eats post, I have had France's capital on my mind as of late. When I break up the lumps in my morning oatmeal, I imagine starting my day with a pain au chocolat and petite espresso. When I pass by the river near my campus, I imagine the champagne glow of Parisian lights dancing on the surface of the la Seine. And when I throw on jeans and a sweatshirt for class, I imagine the obligatory heels and sleek, attractive outfit instinctively donned by les femmes.

So when I spotted a slightly torn copy of Almost French in the "Used" section of my local bookstore, I jumped on it. It is an autobiographical piece written by journalist Sarah Turnbull. A native Australian, Sarah went travelling in her late 20s. She meets a charming Parisian named Frederic in Bucharest. He, of course, invites her to visit his home in Paris. What starts out as a week-long visit turns into a 2 year stay. (and ultimately a permanent placement since the author's bio on the back cover gives away that she marries Frederic). 

But the book is not a love story. It is a witty, detailed account of the French temperament and lifestyle. From the treatment of pet dogs to the appropriate comebacks for rude encounters, Sarah experiences the not-always-wonderful aspects of French culture.

What I Liked: Learning about Paris! Sarah writes about an array of topics without sugar-coating them. My very short stay in Paris last year also allowed me to recognize some of her descriptions. As a foodie, I especially liked the sections about Sarah's preparation of a traditional 5-course meal, her assignment to critique the food at a 5-star restaurant, and her details of shopping at local fromageries and boulangeries

What I Didn't Like: The cover advertises a story about "Love and a new life in Paris," but there is very little discussion of the author's romantic relationship with Frederic. Rather, he serves as another French figure to further highlight how Sarah is an expatriate. I would have liked to know a little more about how her relationship developed since it surely affected her increasing love for the country. However, I didn't grab this book to have a romance novel handy, so this point is also a plus.

Should you read it? Oui!! Even if you do not have an obsession with Paris like moi, it is fascinating to learn about another culture. It is an honest, humorous, and enlightening read.

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