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Almost French: A Francophile’s Review

Book Review: Almost French by Sarah Turnbull.

I must confess I am a self-proclaimed Francophile. A visit to Paris brings about a new appreciation for French culture, lifestyle & its people. Unfortunately I am not able to visit as often as I would like, therefore I am constantly in search of books about France, movies or anything, to fulfill my French obsessions.

Having read several novels about women travelling to Paris in search of love and then finding it, I was recently looking for something a bit different and not so romanticized; a true account of just what living in Paris is really like.

I was recently listening to a podcast (Katia & Kyliemac in Paris) featuring pastry chef & writer David Lebovitz. I had read his book “The Sweet Life in Paris” and enjoyed his candid accounts of living life as an expat in Paris on his blog. On the podcast, the interviewer asked David why foreigners were so enamored with the city and why does it have such an affect on people all over the world? David was quick to point out, (jokingly) that it’s because they do not live here.

More seriously, David admitted it was a fantastic place to visit and live, but most people only visit for one week and that Parisians live and work and still have the same problems and issues as everyone else. Just because you live in Paris doesn’t mean that you don’t have certain challenges. Hard to believe for any Francophile, but Parisians still need to grocery shop, do laundry and even clean their bathrooms.

David’s words really struck a cord with me. All these books, movies and even conversations had really clouded my mind with romanticized ideas about what Paris was really all about. It was around this time that I was browsing on Amazon and came upon a book called Almost French by Sarah Turnbull.

Sarah’s story is really not unlike many expat women living in Paris. An Australian, Sarah was working as a freelance writer when she met a Parisian named Frederic in Bucharest. It was there that Frederic invited her to come and visit him; Sarah leapt at the chance to spend a week in Paris and get to know Frederic. No surprise to anyone but the author, she never left. Almost French is a true account of what living in Paris is like to an outsider.

Although the writer did have preconceived notions of what living in such a great city would entail, her narrative of the culture and the people is extremely refreshing. Through numerous stories, Sarah describes just how difficult and sometimes surprising it can be to adapt to a new city as well as culture.

Everything from French dinner party etiquette, French women in frendships and even Parisian dog customs is discussed. Sarah’s account of trying to understand the culture while trying to “become French” is humorous, and at times a stark realization that even though you may have visited the city for one week, it doesn’t mean that you could possibly assimilate into another culture without knowing its differences from your own.

I loved this book and strongly recommend it for any traveler who wants to know what living in Paris is really like, or even for those Francophiles who (like me) still daydream of a day when I too can be Almost French.

I’m an office worker by day & cook/baker/photographer/writer by night. I love all types of music despite my husband playing in a heavy metal band. Happily married, I enjoy traveling often with my husband much to the disappointment of our miniature dachshund Minnie. My favorite place in the world is Paris, France but Myrtle Beach, South Carolina will always hold a special place in my heart. Julia Child is my idol.

This article has 12 comments

  1. Lindsey

    One of my favorite expat novels! I don’t read many of them because after awhile, they all start to sound the same. But her story was sprinkled with an equal dose of humor and truth that I couldn’t help but identity with. I still recommend it!

  2. Krista

    Oh, I’m so excited to read this now, Cailin! 🙂 My brother lived in Paris for over a year and has many stories of the glamorous and not-so-glamorous ins and outs of Parisian life. 🙂 It will be great to get a woman’s view. 🙂

  3. Margo Millure

    I remember hearing about this book when it first came out a few years ago, but after reading this review I definitely will be reading it soon!

  4. Food Lover Kathy

    This book is in my very high stack of books to read. After reading your review, I’m putting it to the top of Paris reads. Thanks!

  5. Nicole

    Almost French sounds like a book I need to read! Nice review, Cailin. 🙂 I’m going to request it from the library right now!

  6. ayngelina

    I’m the same way, I love the French, I hate the French, I love them even more.

    Wish I could find that book here 🙁

  7. Cailin

    Thanks Ladies for all you lovely comments & feedback. It is a great read! 🙂

  8. Danee Gilmartin

    I loved this book! So quirky and personal. I read it 2 years ago right before I moved to Paris and I have to say- a lot of the situations she wrote about happened to me! Thanks for reviewing!

  9. Raquel Segura

    As someone who would love to live in Paris someday, I’m looking forward to reading the book. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Ian Mitchell

    As a German Pensioner, of Scottish birth, living in Southern France for 18 years, I’m always amazed to see the extremely high per centage of female writers about France.
    Now why could this be? Don’t men like France, or don’t they know how to write, or are they the people the females go to France to meet, or are they just the ones responsible for putting the necessary “skudos” at the disposition of the ladies…..or what?
    It also surprises me to hear how many of the ladies speak little or rather bad French…integration is so important to find out what makes a country tick, and what the undercurrents of a country are.
    It happens to me that in my little Languedoc village, 30600 Vauvert, I can go years without meeting English speakers or even speaking English outside my home, and that is how it should be!
    I’m available (in English, French or German) on “Facebook” as “Ian Mitchell – on “Twitter” as “mr le marquis” and on the site named above as well as on various others…Links can be found on all of them.
    In French the main site I maintain is: http://vauvertvillage.blogspot.com/
    and I think I can truly say that I’m not a Francophile, but as near as 100% French as any “not born in France” person can get!

    [email protected] – Ian Mitchell (mr le marquis) – 10 Jan 2011

  11. Dora Theiss

    Wow, can’t wait to get a copy of this book and read it. I’m one of those people that romanticize all destinations that I travel to…. especially Paris, so this is perfect for me to read!

  12. Madeleine

    This book is absolutely breathtaking!! I finished reading “Almost french” and it felt like I was back in Paris again! You mentioned that you are in the search for any french books or movies.. I have seen some french movies that you might like and will let you know the titles if you like 😉

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