I didn’t get 2012 off to a good start reading-wise. The first off the To Read pile was something that described itself as a “enthralling tale of dark suspense” which seemed perfect for New Year’s Day. I waited in vain to be enthralled, or for the suspense, dark or otherwise, and finally put my pedant’s hat on and chucked it in the charity pile when I got to ‘she passed a 4 x 4 with two setter dogs barking loudly.’ What else is a setter and barks? An otter? A Horse? Seal?
Then I started next month’s book group choice, set in the Spanish Civil War, and based on my experience with Hemingway braced myself for some fairly gory passages. Actually the gory passages would have been a welcome change from nothing happening and some of the most excruciating writing I’ve ever come across. One girl had a plait that swung from hip to hip as she walked, it was intended to show how graceful she was I think, but in this reader it produced an ineradicable image of a drunken sailor lurching from side to side. I really try hard not to give up on book group reads but when I realised that the thought of picking up this horror was actually making me feel depressed I decided to pass it straight on to the next unlucky soul in the list to read it.
So thank heaven for Almost French by Sarah Turnbull which was published about eight years ago. I can’t remember who it was on one of the Living In France blogs who said this was really good and in a different class to most of the books about making a new life in France but she was absolutely right. Thank you so much for I don’t think I’d have read this otherwise.
Sarah Turnbull is an Australian journalist who moved in with Frederic, a Parisian lawyer in his thirties, only weeks after meeting him while backpacking around Europe. She spoke barely any French, didn’t have any employment, barely knew her lover and knew even less about the people and the habits of the city she was now living in. She was a true Australian, impetuous, informal, friendly; he was typically French, close to his extended family, formal, used to smart dinner parties where everyone wore black and didn’t speak to strangers unless they had been properly introduced. What sets this apart from all those other “I came to France and have adapted books” is that she’s remarkably honest about herself. She comes across as very likeable but you still get the impression that she could be difficult and unbending on occasion, in other words thoroughly human. There are no neat answers, it’s the story of two people who have to learn to change to make their life together and it’s a wonderful read. The fact that it’s also very well written is a bonus.
I think I might suggest this for the book group…