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Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris Paperback – August 5, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A bestseller in Turnbull's native Australia, this cute firsthand look at the hardships of settling into a city infamously chilly to outsiders gives a glimpse of the true nature of Parisians and daily life in their gorgeous city. Though Turnbull tells readers less about love than new life, it was in falling for a Frenchman that the journalist found herself moving to Paris, for a few months that stretched into years. The cultural relationship is challenging enough, leaving aside the more intimate personal story (though readers do learn enough about Turnbull's now husband to understand her decision to stay), and she writes of finding work, making friends, surviving dinner parties and adapting to the rhythms and pace of life with a Parisian boyfriend with humor and a developing sense of wisdom. Of the struggle to adapt to her new home in the mid-1990s, the author writes, "I've discovered a million details that matter to me-details that define me as non-French" no matter how much she tries to assimilate, while over time she grows to appreciate some perplexing aspects of French culture, as "[e]veryday incidences elevate into moments of clarity simply because they would never, ever happen in your old home," from developing her confrontational side enough to defend herself (in French) from rude remarks to receiving advice from "a terribly chic blonde who advises me to use eye-makeup remover on Maddie's [Turnbull's dog's] leaky eyes." This is an engaging, endearing view of the people and places of France.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-This account of a 20-plus Australian woman's adventures as she tried to adjust to Parisian ways is both insightful and funny. Having taken a year off from her job with a TV network, Turnbull moved to Paris to be with her new lover, Frederic. She found that the French weren't interested in making new friends; were unwilling to discuss their jobs, hobbies, or much of anything except the food they were eating, planning to eat, or had eaten; and they wished to socialize in mixed groups-no girls' night out for them. But Frederic, with patience and aplomb, helped her overcome these obstacles, depicted in a series of vignettes that sketch many of the fascinations and foibles of becoming "almost French." She detested visiting Frederic's family in northern France, with its rainy, cold beaches, but finally warmed to his home, and was accepted by them. The couple's marriage was almost an anticlimax after a hilarious birthday celebration for 80 at the old home. This clash of cultures is, ultimately, a love story.
Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; Reprint edition (August 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592400825
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592400829
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (172 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 127 people found the following review helpful By Hilde Bygdevoll on March 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am part of a newly started book club. The number of girls attending our dinners vary between 3 and 12, all Australian but me. We had problems choosing a new book last time, but in the end, we settled for "Almost French" by Sarah Turnbull as our third book to read. All member of our book club are foreigners, living in England, so we figured we could and would sympathize with another "expat".
Sarah met Frederic while on a (very late) gap-year in Europe. They had a good time and agreed to meet up in France later. In short, they meet up, fall in love, and Sarah never leaves Paris.
Moving to another country is a massive challenge. You are bound to do all the "Top 10" big no-no's probably within the first 2 weeks. Sarah's portrait of Parisians is hilariously funny, from the snobby shopkeepers, old ladies with their well groomed dogs, uptight cocktail parties where no one really mingles, and unfriendly dinners with Frederic's friends to mention a few.
However, when we discussed this book, we all commented that it was not very balanced - 90% Sarah and 10% the rest. With that ratio, we get to know Sarah quite well. Honestly, she tends to whine quite a bit. We go through the motions with her - lonely, bored and feeling useless and not welcome (I got tired of the author asking over and over and over again "why don't they like me?"). However, her frustration for not being able to speak the language I can sympathize with. I have been in the same situation myself. I studied Spanish in Latin America. Trust me, when you only can speak in present tense with a very limited vocabulary, you sound like an idiot and the conversation dies quickly...
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sarah Turnbull, an Australian journalist, takes a year off work to travel. While she is roaming around Europe she meets a Parisian named Frederic, who invites her to visit him in Paris. It sounds like a good idea at the time; she does, although by the time her plane lands at Charles de Gaulle she is beginning to wonder what possessed her to agree to stay with essentially a complete and total stranger.
The visit goes well, though; so well, in fact, that she moves permanently not just to Paris, but into Frederic's apartment. The memoir that follows is a charming and amusing account of two cultures, embodied by two very different people -- the uptight, nattily dressed Frenchman and the casual, easy-going Aussie -- trying to coexist in a small space. He is appalled when she wears her sweat pants to pick up her morning baguette ("But it's not nice for the baker!"); she doesn't understand his sense of humor. This is a happy story that ends with a wedding, but not before the author has myriad battles with the language, countless misunderstandings with the the customs of the place, and some truly homesick spells yearning for Australia.
I found this book laugh-out-loud funny (although I'll admit my reaction may have been a little extreme) because I have spent time in Paris and saw myself very clearly in Ms. Turnbull's language struggles, efforts to get a journalistic career going, and just general befuddlement. I've passed my copy on to some travelling companions who felt the same way I did. But even if you've never been to France, "Almost French" is well-worth reading for the entertainment value alone. The descriptions are apt. The voice is personable and interesting, so much so that by the time you've finished, you'll feel not just that you've visited Paris, but as if you've made a new friend while you were there.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In the mid-1990s, Australian journalist Sarah Turnbull met a French attorney named Frédéric in Bucharest and followed him back to Paris, where they lived together and eventually married. End of a familiar story, right? Wrong. Turnbull, a born reporter, has given her book an apt subtitle: not "Life and a New Love in Paris," but "Love and a New Life in Paris." For, as Turnbull accurately observes, in her case it's the love that brings her to a new life and not vice versa.
Turnbull provides brief glimpses into how love grew between her and "Fred," including descriptions of a huge mirror from which he patiently scraped paint with his thumbnail; for the most part he remains an opaque figure. There is no doubt whatsoever that this idiosyncratic pair are in genuine swing-from-the-gilt mirror love --- after all, she does move to another country for him and he makes enormous and touching attempts to introduce her to his family and his culture --- but Turnbull seems to have made a conscious decision to draw a veil over their love life, both emotional and physical. Her intention is not to describe a romance but to detail her own transformations --- from single woman to spouse, and from Aussie to "almost French."
The "almost" modifying "French" includes a large amount of agonizing awkwardness. The near-universal tourist experience of Parisian rudeness is magnified hundreds of times for someone like Turnbull who chooses to stay on past the usual week or two. "A week might not be long enough," muses the author after her first dinner in Fred's apartment, but she still maintains enough natural savoir-faire to take a breather and travel for several months. After that however, "I return to Paris.
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