Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

Sarah Turnbull, an Australian, is touring Europe when she meets Frederic, a Parisian.

She ejects her itinerary and follows him to Paris.

And the payoff (for us) is this lovely book.

Sarah has a view of Paris and the French as an expat who is living with and eventually marries a native. It's an outsider's insider view and it provides a nice contrast to Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon.

While she can't avoid hobnobbing with some expats (although she tries mightily to avoid it), Turnbull's Paris, because of her intimate relationship with a Parisian, is filled with experiences and affectionate insights about the ups and downs of trying to fit in as a unpretentious Aussie in the hierarchical, class based world of Paris.

Turnbull is honest enough about herself to allow the reader to get frustrated with her tendency to take personally what are essentially cultural differences. She is also fond enough of the French to provide believable explanations for their abominably rude behavior.

I finished Paris to the Moon feeling that while Paris is a nice place to visit, I wouldn't want to live there.

I finished Almost French feeling that in the right circumstances, I could probably enjoy living in Paris too.

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