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…
This sounds interesting. I’m currently reading another of your recommendations – Angels and Men. Happy New Year!
Hope you’re enjoying Angels and Men and this really is a super book. Happy New Year to you too!
Yes… It is my BIBLE. One read all expat gals need.. Especially antipodeans.
Was it your reccomendation then, Susie? If so, thanks very much. I think it’s a read all expats need, even my daughter’s who have been here since primaire are very conscious that they aren’t actually French. They enjoy being different though.
I enjoyed this one as well, though I think Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’ is my all time favorite.
Thanks for that suggestion, I mentioned it to my husband who promptly said A Farewell to Arms was also very good so that’s two more for the wish list.
Jay from The Depp Effect said:
Isn’t it amazing how much dross we sometimes have to struggle through to find a little pure gold? Thanks for the review of this one – I might just give it a try!
‘She passed a 4 x 4 with two setter dogs barking loudly’
I’m afraid it wasn’t the overkill (setter + dogs) that had me sighing sadly. It was having to wonder a) if she was riding one of the setters – or perhaps driving them attached to some kind of chariot – when she passed the 4 x 4, and b) if it was she herself who was barking loudly. It’s an intriguing mental image, but I hate being tripped up by this kind of sloppy writing!
As far as sloppy writing is concerned the book with the bouncing plait was even worse. We’ve got to discuss it at the next book club meeting and even the person who recommended it has admitted that she hadn’t realised until she re-read it how ghastly it was!
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