01 August 2010

Almost French, by Sarah Turnbull


Sadly, Paris in July has ended at Thyme for Tea's and BookBath's sites, and I got one last post in, but shame on me...on August 1st!  The wonderful thing about this challenge is that reading books or watching films set in or about Paris has been a real treat and not one that I'll be waiting until next year to dive into on a regular basis -- no excuses needed now to go to J.J.'s Bistro de Paris 10 minutes from me, watching a French film, or diving into Parisian culture through paintings or stories.  What a wonderful month!  Thank you to both of these amazing bloggers for welcoming me into this wonderful journey to Paris, and I cannot wait to do it again next year!

Almost French by Sarah Turnbull is a memoir about the Australian author's time in Paris as she falls in love, learns the culture (or tries to fit in), and tries to get consistent work as a journalist.  Perhaps it was because it was a travel memoir and fitting in that I thought so often of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, but within pages it held a completely separate voice for me.

Sarah Turnbull has taken time off from her job in Australia to travel Europe -- she figures that she might as well do it now since she can afford to take the time and she has no commitments -- after all, why wait until much later in life when work and family obligations might get in the way?  Off she goes to Europe, and while in Bucharest, she meets Frèdèric, and decides to do something different than she's ever done before and completely change her plans -- go to Paris to stay with a guy that she only met for a few days in Bucharest.  Throwing caution to the wind she goes -- and settles into Paris and tries to find her place within the culture and the job market.

This book is a hit in Australia and it was definitely a really pleasant read.  I enjoyed her moments of confusion in trying to understand fashion and language, and there is one particular moment that I spluttered my coffee out with laughter for my combined shock and for feeling the author's complete embarrassment -- a simple moment in which she asks her new boyfriend in front of his friends if he would like his smoking pipe, when she mistakenly really asked him if he, ahem...would like a blow job.  I felt for her trying to fit in and get used to it all, and as I've traveled quite a bit in my life and lived in multiple locations, I felt my understanding and my frustrations for her experiences grow as I read each page.  It's tough to fit in sometimes!

The only aspect that found me a little wanting was that I felt she wrote with such great detail on so many events and moments, but she skipped quite a bit on the love she had with Frèdèric which was the ultimate reason which compelled her to move to Paris in the first place.  Perhaps it was out of respect for their intimacies (completely understandable) and perhaps I'm just an old romantic at heart, but I felt a tad removed from the blossoming love that they experienced within their relationship that would so compel this grounded and logical woman to completely forgo her plan to travel all of Europe and instead, after one week of meeting with a man, to move instead to Paris to begin life anew.

Sarah Turnbull's descriptions of Parisian life, the eccentric characters she meets in a new neighborhood, and her ability (or lack thereof) to fit in fashionably at first, were quite endearing and offered a fun snapshot into her life.  I cheered for her to find the right job, and enjoyed her journalistic cadence as Turnbull related each event with sometimes a distant voice and sometimes with close up scrutiny, one that ultimately turns into quite a fun trip into Parisian culture!

Again, a thank you (merci!) to Thyme for Tea and to BookBath -- see you next July!

Happy Reading!
Coffee and a Book Chick

27 comments:

  1. I love memoirs and I love books set in France, so this sounds like the perfect book for me.

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  2. This sounds good: I love books that make one "splutter" one's coffee! Or cafe au lait, in this instance...

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  3. This is going on my list for next year's Paris in July!

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  4. @ Bermuda Onion -- It's really a nice read, let me know what you think!

    @ Rhapsody in Books -- That one particular scene just threw me for a loop! I had no idea that was what she had actually said!!

    @ JoAnn -- Ooh, I can't wait for next year's Paris in July!! I've got a whole plan in place for myself!! :)

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  5. This sounds great! I love memoirs that are set in Paris. My favorite is "Paris to the Moon". I will definitely be checking out this book! Thanks for the review.

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  6. @ Brenna -- Thanks for stopping by! I haven't read Paris to the Moon, I'm going to have to take a look at that one!

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  7. Almost French looks good! Another one to keep my eyes looking for!

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  8. As an armchair traveler, I think I'd like this book!

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  9. @ Sheila -- Keep your eye out! Maybe I should do a giveaway for it?

    @ Book Bird Dog -- I love being an armchair traveler! I wonder where I need to travel next? :)

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  10. This has been on my shelf for awhile. I think it sounds like a sweet book and a good substitute for a trip to Paris when you can't afford a real one.

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  11. @ Avid Reader -- I enjoyed it, it was really such a nice little travelogue of her life trying to entrench in the culture. Every little thing, from how to act at a cocktail party, what to dress in when you're going to the store, the eccentric characters she meets, really just a joy to read!

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  12. I must read this one before I go to Paris in October!

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  13. @ Ravenous Reader -- Ooh, you're going to Paris!! I am not jealous, I'm not!! :) Okay, maybe a little...!

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  14. This was such a fun read-I did not realize they were doing a French theme-I had a French theme going the first half of July, now my theme is India.

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  15. @ Esme -- Thanks for stopping by! Yes, it was a new challenge, and it looks like they'll be hosting it next year, too, so do join in!

    A theme for India sounds fun!!

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  16. I have this book at home, Natalie, and I have been meaning to pick it up for ages - I love Paris! I must get on to it soon.

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  17. @ Book Whisperer -- I'd be really interested to hear what your thoughts were like on this! Let me know when you read it!

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  18. Great review. Thanks!

    Janna
    http://www.primoreads.com/

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  19. This sounds great! I enjoyed Eat Pray Love and it does sound like it's along the same lines. I'm always looking for new books to read!

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  20. @ Janna -- Many thanks for stopping by!! Please do visit again, you are always welcome! :)

    @ Sarah -- I quite enjoyed this book and found it to be a real pleasure to read -- I'd love to hear your thoughts about it!!

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  21. I read this awhile back and quite enjoyed it-I am reading another book called Mommy Are we French yet-Have you read A Year in the Merde?

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  22. @ Esme -- So sorry in the delay in responding! No, I haven't read A Year in the Merde, but it sort of sounds like I need to pick this one up!! :)

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  23. Hi there. I just stumbled upon your blog b/c I was looking to see if Sarah had a blog of her own. (I'm in the process of writing my own memoir about life in France, but with a very, very different story line). Anyways, you gave a great, honest, review of the book. Nice job. Now if anybody finds her blog or web site...

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  24. @ Samantha Verant -- Thanks for stopping by! I've tried to find a blog of Sarah Turnbull's but haven't been able to find one either. It looks like the only contact information is through Random House Publishing, unfortunately! And good luck to you when you publish your memoir -- I'd love to read it! :)

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  25. @ Samantha again -- There's also another book out called C'est La Vie: An American Woman Begins a New Life in Paris, by Suzy Gershman. I haven't read the book but I have it on my wish list, and it looks like she has a website at www.suzygershman.com, but not a fully developed blog -- cute site though, that she has!

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  26. Thanks for the recommendation. I'm heading stateside soon so I'll be able to pick it up! Thanks for the support, too. I'm off to check out this Suzy Gershman...

    cheers!

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  27. After having recently returned from Paris I re-read Sarah's book that initially inspired me to travel to Paris in the first place. What a wonderful city and a very enjoyable book to read.

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