The full title of this book is Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris and it’s by Sarah Turnbull, an Australian journalist who moves to France. When browsing through Good Reads I came across this book and it intrigued me as I do enjoy reading memoirs and about people’s real lives. This story about a 20 something year old Australian woman who meets a French guy while she was abroad in Bucharest and then in a whirlwind romance goes back to France with him to live seemed too good to pass up.
I liked the book but didn’t love it and I really wanted to love it. The premise was so promising. I wanted to read about her adjustment to living in France, learning a new language, living with a Frenchman she hardly knew and falling in love etc. I mean, in the very beginning of the book, she says “On a personal level I’d taken a headlong plunge into new territory as well. Put a very French Frenchman together with a strong-willed Sydney girl and the result is some fairly spectacular – and sometimes hilarious – cultural clashes.” This had to be good with all of these things she could talk about. And the book is about these things….kinda. It was weird – it was like all her stories were kind of put together with no real order, rhyme, or reason.
I wanted to learn more about her relationship with Frederic and while maybe I shouldn’t have been expecting there to be a big focus on her love life, the title of the book does imply that she will write about her boyfriend at length. I mean, she relocated continents for him! Frederic does play a role in much of the novel, but everything is kind of matter of fact. He supports her in her job search, helps her understand the culture and why people treat her differently as a foreigner (even years after she’s been living there) and how people can tell right off the bat that she’s Anglo-Saxon. But there was never any mention of their relationship deeper than those things that anyone in public could see. She didn’t talk about how they fell in love. I mean one minute she’s enamored with him when they meet through mutual friends in Bucharest and going to visit him in France for a week. The next, they’re living together in Paris and even after 6 years have gone by she has never talked about how they fell in love or what made her stay more than that 1 week. I get it, it’s her real life and maybe she wants her relationship to stay private, but then don’t write a book and say it’s about your love and new life in Paris!
At times I felt the book dragging, but I have to give Turnbull credit because I kept reading! I was determined to finish the book because I wanted to know what happened. And while the book is quite a few years old and I’ve since learned that her and Frederic don’t even live in Paris anymore I still wanted to know what happened in this time period of her life.
Overall, the book wasn’t bad but I felt it could’ve been a little less random in her stories and more personal. The imagery she creates about her life in Paris was great though. I felt like I could taste the food she was eating and picture the Parisian sights in my head. She ends one chapter talking about an evening on the rooftop of her apartment building with Frederic.
My favorite time is in the evening, when the breeze has cooled. Cradling glasses of wine, we watch as the sun slips behind the Eiffel Tower. Lavender clouds streak the sky and the roofs glow flamingo pink in the fading light.
If you’re looking for something to read about a foreigner living in Paris and her experiences there, this one isn’t bad. It’s not going to be as fulfilling as a novel like Eat, Pray, Love, but again it’s not a bad choice and I think you’ll find yourself also sticking with it just to see how it all pans out for Sarah.