Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris
by Sarah Turnbull
Summary: Australian Sarah Turnbull met a handsome Frenchman named Frederic. Throwing caution to the wind, she moved in with him in Paris. Almost French is a terrific account of her real-life adventure.
Review: You meet an attractive French person and soon move to Paris to begin a new life. It sounds like a romance novel, but it actually happened to Australian Sarah Turnbull. She shares her story in the excellent book Almost French.
The reader quickly learns that there is France – and then there is Paris. French people outside The City of Lights often view Parisians the way Americans outside New York City view New Yorkers – hip, cool, and urbane, but also pretentious, rude, and stuck on themselves. For Turnbull, learning the Parisian social system involves a steep learning curve.
One of the hardest things for Turnbull to understand is how Parisians entertain. They are very formal; dinners always involve the same courses served in the same order. Moreover, at one dinner party she commits a grievous faux pas when she attempts to converse with some attendees at a dinner before she has been introduced. The reader sympathizes with Turnbull as she tries to “make her way” in a world unlike any she has ever known.
To be sure, there are many compensations for living in Paris. The French adore the arts, fashion, food, and all of the finer things in life. Turnbull provides vivid descriptions of her immersion in French culture. One of the more interesting involves clothing (particularly given Americans’ increasingly-casual dress). Parisians hold that a person who goes out sloppily attired detracts from the ambience of their city.
There are a few aspects of the book that make the reader wonder. Turnbull reveals that she can be quite demanding. Soon after moving in with Frederic, she started complaining about his boring home in Paris’ suburbs and kept complaining until he agreed to move into the city. Also, she disliked that fact that – in French fashion – Frederic frequently visited his father on weekends; again, she complained until he agreed that she did not have to go with him. Finally, she adopted a dog and hid the cost (over 900 Euros) from Frederic because she “had to have it.” On the whole, Turnbull is likable, but perhaps she is not the easiest person.
A Terrific Read
Almost French offers readers the best sort of armchair travel – you go to Paris with an entertaining guide. Vicariously you experience what it is like to live in the City of Lights.