Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Gift from Brittany

After reading Almost French Marjory Price's A Gift from Brittany: A Memoir of Love and Loss in the French Countryside was the perfect book to read after Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris. Again a young English- speaking woman goes to France, falls in love and tries to acclimate to French culture. However, there were some important differences in how each woman engaged the culture.

In 1960 Price, a painter, decided to move to Paris to immerse herself in the art world there. She meets Yves, another painter, and is smitten. They soon marry and have a daughter. When the daughter is three, Yves decides to buy property with seven delapidated houses in the boonies of Brittany. Did he consult his American femme? Non! Price protests, but soon decides to make the best of things.

In Brittany, Price meets Jeanne, an older, wise, loving woman and their friendship makes up the core of the book. Jeanne teaches Mitch (a.k.a. Marjorie) farm skills to survive the rigors and social challenges on La Salle. Price widens Jeanne's horizons taking her to the beach (yep, Jeanne had never set foot in the sea) and later to Paris. Their friendship is deep and has a reciprocity, that I liked.

I admired Price's resourcefulness and courage. She never whined. When her husband tells her that they'd never find a skilled architect from the nearest city and they HAD to make due with a local incompetent, she doubts him. She winds up getting a great architect who loves the idea of working on these old homes.

It seems from the beginning Price spoke French well and when she faced adversity had little assistance from her husband, who was definitely more of an obstacle than anything else. She had to make hard choices and deal with major problems (while Sarah Turnbull lived more on the periphery and had a lot of help and luck getting work, etc.) while considering the needs of her daughter. It was just more rivetting to move through this book that presents a France that's probably disappeared. In fact, Marjorie saw some traditions die during her 10 years in LaSalle.

Price revealed more about her relationship with Yves and her own inner struggles and doubts. Thus I felt I knew her much better than I did Turnbull.

Read this! (It would be a good book club book.)

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