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Dreaming in French: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, December 14, 2010

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Paperback, Bargain Price, December 14, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

McAndrew's atmospheric second novel (after Going Topless) takes readers into the superficially glamorous lives of the expatriate Sanders family in late 1970s Paris. Fifteen-year-old Charlotte lives with her snobby older sister, emotionally autistic father and chic though she was from Kentucky mother, Astrid. Charlotte busies herself with the standard obsessions of adolescence: crushes, homework, power plays within her school's cliques. Her journey to adulthood begins as her parents' marriage—and her family—crumble when her mother's affair with a Polish dissident lands Astrid in jail. Forced to choose between her parents, Charlotte moves with Astrid to the punk scene of early '80s New York and works her way through the milestones of a young woman's life: high school, college, work. Slowly, she finds her place in the world while her family's capacity for reinvention leads its members to new and unexpected alliances. McAndrew's casual but assured depictions of life among the upper crust of Paris and New York (those heavy-lidded women of indeterminable age) and wry voice (one of those iconic Parisian addresses that only foreigners could afford), make this coming-of-age novel a delectable treat. (Sept.)
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.


“McAndrew can do cross-cultural humor with the flair of Diane Johnson, but she also has her own kind of sophistication—an international knowingness coupled with an American practicality.”

--The New York Times

“McAndrew has immense talent for calling up vastly different settings in precise detail, and her observations, as realized by her clear-eyed protagonist, are deliciously sharp-edged. Dense with context and deeply nuanced, yet effortlessly readable. McAndrew is a real find.”

--Kirkus Reviews

“A sophisticated coming-of-age story.”

--Daily Candy

“McAndrew's casual but assured depictions of life among the upper crust of Paris and New York and wry voice, make this coming-of-age novel a delectable treat.

--Publishers Weekly

“McAndrew’s novel brings an original sensibility as well as a plot that takes satisfying, unexpected turns.”

--The New York Times

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (December 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416599738
  • ASIN: B005Q704SU
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,510,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Megan Mcandrew spent her childhood in France, Spain and Belgium and worked for several years in international development before becoming a writer. She divides her time between Brooklyn and East Quogue.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Blake Fraina VINE VOICE on March 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Megan McAndrew's Dreaming in French is the tender, funny and smart story of Charlotte, a teenage girl in 1980's Paris, growing up against the backdrop of a rapidly changing Europe. After the divorce of her American parents, Frank a stuffy, conservative lawyer and Astrid, a bohemian free-spirit, she and her newly penurious mother move to New York where they must start over. Charlotte is forced to mature quickly in order to bring some order into a household badly mismanaged by the extravagant and impractical Astrid. But ultimately, it is a much more daunting challenge that is Charlotte's true right of passage to womanhood.

Something about the subject matter and tone very much reminds me of the coming-of-age novels I gravitated to when I was in school. Iris Murdoch's Flight From the Enchanter, Francoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse and Nora Johnson's The World of Henry Orient all come to mind. It has all the drama of youth with its bigger than life emotions - the yearnings, rebellions and heartaches. And every character, Astrid in particular, is colorful and affectionately rendered. It's refreshing to read a novel where you have no sense that the author is passing judgment on her characters. She merely presents them, warts and all, through the POV of her somewhat ennuyé, but level-headed, narrator, Charlotte, and leaves it up to the reader to form his/her own opinion. As for me, I liked all of them - even a boy who seemed rather caddish at the outset, reveals redeeming qualities by the end.

While I mostly enjoyed the book, several minor, but cloying, details were a bit hard to overlook. Astrid, a svelte and fashionable sophisticate, and her sister Maybelle, an overweight polyester-clad yokel, seemed too appropriately named.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on March 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book a bit hesitantly. I grew up in Paris in the seventies and I have often been disappointed (even infuriated) by some American writers writing about France without apparently ever having set foot there. When a character who is supposedly native makes basic French mistakes ("Avons la petit-dejeuner!") you know you're wasting your time. McAndrews is not one of those authors. I could tell right away that she had spent a good deal of her childhood in Paris, and not a single detail felt inauthentic. In addition, the story is gripping and extremely well-written. You just can't go wrong buying this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I ordered this book, I expected something amusing about living in Paris. However, having read it, I find myself thinking about it more than a week later. It is a coming-of-age story, but what sets it apart is how well it shows that our perceptions change as we mature. Even people we think of as uncomplicated reveal different facets of themselves through the years. Charlotte, a student in a "collège," has a comfortable life in Paris. Her father is a successful businessman, her mother stylish ("even though" she is from Kentucky--there are some stylish women in Kentucky!), and her older sister, in spite of sibling rivalries, is her friend. Her problem at the beginning is Delphine, the daughter of an American woman and a Frenchman. Delphine has been her friend since early childhood, but now that puberty has set in, she is far more interested in boys than Charlotte is.
The reader can see from the beginning cracks in Charlotte's life that she cannot. Her mother seems to spend an inordinate amount of time with her best friend, Grace, who is unhappily married to a Frenchman who has mistresses. Grace herself has a lover. Astrid, Charlotte's mother, remains an enigmatic figure. Her absences worry her daughter but her father does not seem to mind, preferring to spend his evenings reading. Astrid has taken up causes, such as Polish independence from the Soviet Union. The story is firmly anchored in its time and place. Charlotte's world will undergo a shock that changes her sense of her identity and how she sees everyone around her. It is interesting to watch how Charlotte deals with the upheavals and whether she lands on her feet.
I enjoyed the novel very much, especially the picture of the American expatriate community, which, other than a few men, lacked very many French characters. In fact, some of the people in Charlotte's entourage were not even at ease speaking French.
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Format: Paperback
I loved the first half of this book. There is something about a Paris setting and adolescent, first love that seem perfectly matched. American readers experience the wonder of something new as the young girl does. Then her mother takes up with a Polish dissident. The parents split and we are in Warsaw with Charlotte, visiting her mother in jail. The disintegrating family and the bleak Eastern European setting again match perfectly in tone, but....

When mother and daughter return to the States, I was less thrilled. We seemed to be following characters in a story that life passes by. Granted, when Astrid, the mother, gets leukemia and the father remarries we are looking what we had experienced through a more mature perspective. But is this something readers want? We learn that desire is not the same as love, that it's the things that we don't understand that matter, that people require care and there is only so much of ourselves to give?

Or do we want through our imagination to re-experience that magic feeling of first falling in love?

- John Lehman, Rosebud Book
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