Book: Almost French; Love and a New Life in Paris (2004) by Sarah Turnbull
As I spend my last two days in Paris, A Traveler’s Library reprises France on Friday with a look at a cautionary book for the traveler’s library.
GUEST POST by Danee Gilmartin, the Museum Chick
Searching for adventure and cultural enlightenment led my husband and me to an exchange of country-naming to pick which country we should explore for one whole year. Bhutan was my first choice but my more sensible and less adventurous husband declared that France would be a better fit for us two New Yorkers. Four seasons in a foreign land sounded exciting and overwhelming to pack for. Only visiting Paris for one week on vacation didn’t inform me much on the cultural differences I would encounter, some to be cherished and others that would vex me.
Looking for a little insight on expat experiences in Paris, my Francophile boss turned me on to the memoir, Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull. Throughout my year as an expat New Yorker in Paris, Turnbull’s wit and confidence replayed in my head as I had similar experiences to those which she describes in her book. However, it was Turnbull’s sentiment of the agony of forever being in love with two places that stuck in my head the most as I fell in love with Paris while at the same time missing New York City.
In her memoir, Turnbull, an Australian journalist, invites the reader to share in memories of her romantic experience falling in love with her husband, a Parisian named Frederic. She met him on a visit to France and made her way into his life shortly after meeting him by moving into his small Paris apartment and learning the Parisian way. She made me laugh as she floundered at dinner parties, got the cold shoulder from her husband’s acquaintances and learned how Parisians always seem to look chic.
In one of the laugh-out-loud moments in the book, Sarah is leaving the apartment to get bread at the bakery in her sweatpants. Alarmed at her ensemble, Frederic stops her, saying it is “not nice for the baker” for her to be wearing such casual clothes to the bakery. This scene in the book replayed in my head through my year living in Paris whenever I dashed out the door, disheveled, for an errand. On one occasion I thought, “am I dressed ok to go buy a plunger?”
This charming and witty memoir which recalls culture clashes and misunderstandings with an inescapable love of Paris helped prepare me for my year as an expat and leaves readers living vicariously through Turnbull’s adventures in becoming almost French.
Sounds like a book I should have read before I left for France. Thanks Danee, for a look at a fun book and how it affected you. And thanks for those luscious photos, too.
Readers, aren’t you lucky to be able to meet all these new writers? Next Week Three more guest posts visit Italy, Maine and Africa. Be sure to tell your friends on Twitter, or by e-mail. Just use the little buttons below to share the love.