Almost French

Almost French

Book - 2010
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'This isn't like me. I'm not the sort of girl who crosses continents to meet up with a man she hardly knows. Paris hadn't even been part of my travel plan a' After backpacking her way around Europe journalist Sarah Turnbull is ready to embark on one last adventure before heading home to Sydney. A chance meeting with a charming Frenchman in Bucharest changes her travel plans forever. Acting on impulse, she agrees to visit Frederic in Paris for a week. Put a very French Frenchman together with a strong-willed Australian girl and the result is some spectacular - and often hilarious - cultural clashes. Language is a minefield of misunderstanding and the simple act of buying a baguette is fraught with social danger. But as she navigates the highs and lows of this strange new world, from the sophisticated cafes and haute couture fashion houses to the picture postcard French countryside, little by little Sarah falls under its spell: passionate, mysterious, infuriating, and charged with that French specialty - seduction. And it becomes her home. ALMOST FRENCH is the story of an adventurous heart, a maddening city - and love.
Publisher: Milsons Point, N.S.W. :, Bantam,, 2010.
ISBN: 9781863252850
Characteristics: x, 309 pages ; 21 cm.


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Nov 07, 2018

Somehow or other, the deluge of books about women going off to France seems to rushed past me. I hadn't particularly been drawn
to dip my toes into the flow, but this book was chosen by my bookgroup and so I read it, some sixteen years after it was published.

At the time of writing it, Sarah Turnbull was an expatriate freelance journalist living in Paris. Most of her journalistic work was published in magazines (similar to the Weekend Magazine that comes with the Age), and the lightness of her touch and self-deprecation makes this an easy and very pleasant read. Food, fashion, the joys (or not) of pet ownership are topics that she addresses in the book, and could easily be lifted for lifestyle magazine consumption.

She only intended going to Paris for a week, having met Frederic in Budapest, and accepting his offer of a week in Paris on a whim. She ended up staying eight years. In this time she came to realize the truth of the words of an elderly man she had met on the Greek island of Samos on her travels. After migrating to Australia, he had returned to Greece but felt it "a bitter-sweet thing, knowing two cultures".

She has to learn the language, and she feels excluded by her limited French and frustrated by her inability to assert herself. But more than words, she has to learn the French purpose of language in a social setting as a game, to show one's quickness and wit. She struggles with the coldness of other French women until she recognizes it as a manifestation of competition. She mocks Frederic's horror at her donning tracky-daks to go down to the nearby bakery, but finds herself equally affronted by the tackiness of English dress-sense when they go over to England for a weekend.

This book is laugh-out-loud funny in places, for example where Frederic quickly ties his jumper around his waist and affects a dodgy French accent when pretending to be an Australian tourist when they are challenged for trespassing. There are moments of poignancy too, like when she needs to don sunglasses in the plane when leaving Australia, looking at the Qantas advertisement and seeing the landscape curving away from her from her plane window.

This is really just a series of anecdotes, with no great plot shifts or crises. She is insightful in identifying the nuance and yet solidity of cultural difference. It is something that we can and should all be reminded of, going in the different direction, by people who are adjusting to Australia. It's a light, enjoyable read- and yes, it made me wonder if perhaps I could go to France next year after all.....

Feb 15, 2017

Insightful glimpse into the life of an expat.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 31, 2014

If you enjoyed Le Marriage or Le Divorce, you will love Sarah Turnbull’s account of her experiences in Paris adjusting to life with the charming man she met in Belgrade. An Australian journalist, she found the differences in culture profound, but after some years and many faux pas she came to understand the nuances of French conversation and attitudes towards life. Now married, she lives happily in Paris, half French, with her husband and little dog, and is a contributing editor for Marie Claire magazine –- in French.

Mar 18, 2014

I loved this book. The author writes well, she's funny and self-deprecating, and she conveys an obvious love of life. It's a contagious emotion! I love her life, too, and have her second book on hold. I'm always more interested in non-fiction than fiction, particularly when the non-fiction reads like a really tremendous dose of fiction!

Jan 25, 2014

Wonderful, witty descriptions of the mysteries and pleasures of living in Paris. The author provides a lighthearted perspective on how to make friends, shop, commute, and own a dog the Parisian way as she simultaneously develops her relationship with her Parisian boyfriend. Some parts were so funny I read them aloud to family members.

Jan 02, 2013

OMG, I was so bored reading this that I gave up halfway through.

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