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French Lessons: A Novel Paperback – July 5, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ann Hood Reviews French Lessons

Ann Hood is the author, most recently, of the bestselling novels The Red Thread and The Knitting Circle, which will be an HBO movie starring Katherine Heigl. Read her review of French Lessons:

If you are like me and you are stuck at home this summer, I have the perfect antidote for your summertime blues: buy a copy of Ellen Sussman’s new novel French Lessons, and get transported to Paris. Her characters are charming, sexy, intelligent, and most important--human. They serve as guide to the city and to the various conditions of the heart, from love to infidelity and grief to hope, with a good dose of sexual highjinks thrown in. You will savor the food and wine of Paris, discover hidden treasures, have your heartbroken and your spirits lifted, even though you are stateside. Most importantly, you will spend some hours in the pleasure of Sussman’s lovely story and storytelling. This is a trip you will want to take.


Review

“[A] luscious novel of love and longing . . . the narrative feelslight as a glass of rosé at an outdoor café, but its insightscarry the richness of a Burgundy.” —People  (four stars)
 
“[A] sexy travelogue . . . sizzling escapist reading.”—Entertainment Weekly

“As inviting as the smell of freshly baked croissants wafting from a Parisian café, this is a novel to savor.”—Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier

“Touching, thoughtful, hilarious, and exquisite in its observations, French Lessons—Ellen Sussman’s day in Paris with a wonderful collection of characters—is a treat. . . . Très charmant!”—Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Four Ms. Bradwells

“Charming, romantic, and brimming with Sussman’s trademark joie de vivre, French Lessons is a novel to savor.”—Amanda Eyre Ward, author of Close Your Eyes

"What a delicious read! With sexual tension that crackles on the page, I truly couldn't put down this literary page-turner. Book clubs: bust out your calendars. This novel's going on your list."  --Lolly Winston, author of Good Grief
 
"Elegant and evocative...Sussman has created wonderful characters who take us through the city as they discover hidden places, including those in their own hearts."  --Luanne Rice
 
"In French Lessons, Ellen Sussman has created an erotic, emotionally charged novel spanning two continents.  The intriguing cast of characters, whose lives are intertwined by a common love for the world's most beautiful language, make delicious reading from the first page to the last."  -- Michelle Richmond

“[An] evocative escape to the City of Love.” --Kirkus
 
“Three Americans explore Paris alongside their attractive French tutors and find themselves caught up in a delightful day of desire in Sussman's second novel… Sussman keeps things fresh with a strong supporting cast and some unexpected insights into the characters' pasts, embracing a soupçon of mystery to go with the scenic strolls and flights of passion.” – Publishers Weekly

"My favorite novels succeed in delivering life's best pleasures: making a new friend (the unexpected delight in encountering a sensibility both sly and sweet), being handed a surprise vacation (the joy of an exotic and stunning landscape), and, most exciting of all, finding oneself in the thrall of an intoxicating flirtation.  French Lessons is just such a book."  -- Antonya Nelson
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition first Printing edition (July 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780345522771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345522771
  • ASIN: 034552277X
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #579,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Ellen Sussman is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels, A WEDDING IN PROVENCE, THE PARADISE GUEST HOUSE, FRENCH LESSONS, and ON A NIGHT LIKE THIS. She is the editor of two critically acclaimed anthologies, BAD GIRLS: 26 WRITERS MISBEHAVE and DIRTY WORDS: A LITERARY ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SEX. She teaches through Stanford Continuing Studies and in private classes. www.ellensussman.com

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 52 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Griffith VINE VOICE on May 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I finished this book in one sitting, and must applaud the author for such a unique and interesting story line. Three visitors to Paris hire a private French tutor for combination French lessons and tour guide. The novel opens with the three tutors, and then is divided into each twosome's day... the entire book takes place during one day in Paris.

Josie is running away from a tragic secret, seeking solace in the anonymity of a tourist, but Nico, her tutor, breaks through the fragile wall she's built around herself through playful flirtation and genuine caring. He is keenly observant of his pupil and seems determined to pull her back into life, if only for a day. By the end of their sesson, each has inadvertantly helped the other make a key decision that will help each move forward in their own lives.

Riley is a reluctant ex-pat in Paris, a young mother of two, and a very unhappy housewife. Her tutor, Phillipe is a overly confidant womanizer in every sense of the word. Although fluent in English, Phillipe insists on speaking only in French, which is no small challenge for Riley. Their story was difficult (for me) to read because it felt a bit like a train wreck unfolding, and (for me) the choice Riley makes is disappointing.

Jeremy has been meeting regularly with Chantal as an anniversary gift from his wife who is a well-known actress filming in Paris. He feels disconnected from his wife's movie world and has come to appreciate his French lessons and Paris day trips with Chantal... who has her own, carefully hidden secrets.

By the end of one single day, each character's life has been changed in some way, big or small.
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62 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Vest VINE VOICE on June 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The plot of French Lessons: A Novel intrigued me - I expected a romantic story set in Paris and instead the novel is actually an anthology of three very short and underdeveloped stories taking place on a single day featuring a Parisian tour guide - each escorting a sad sack around the City of Lights. Billed as a romance, it is actually a somewhat depressing novel more about loneliness than romance.

The one plus in the novel is that author Ellen Sussman makes Paris come alive with her vivid descriptions (and handy maps), but I found the style of writing difficult to follow - there would be dialogue which is suddenly made passive with third person narrative, sometimes detracting from the story and my enjoyment of the novel.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By I. DeBare on July 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
I've been slogging through a bunch of novels I "should" read, and French Lessons was such a welcome relief! I tore through it in two evenings. Take six well-drawn characters coping with their own unique love issues (bereavement; estrangement; ambivalence; longing; betrayal), place them in Paris, have their paths cross in the course of one day in ways that ultimately change each of them... throw in some doses of nice erotic tension... It was a delight to read. Well written yet easy and accessible.

I notice that some reviewers have criticized French Lessons for not being a "romance." They're correct: I wouldn't describe it as genre romance. It is more nuanced, the characters' feelings more ambiguous. It's more reflective of (and reflective upon) real life! For me, that's a plus.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Sharon E. Cathcart VINE VOICE on June 13, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"French Lessons" is the story of three French tutors and their very different students. Nico's student, Josie, is an American French teacher in mourning. Philippe's student, Riley, is an expatriate housewife who wants more out of life. Chantal's student, Jeremy, is a woodworker whose wife happens to be a film star.

The book follows a single day with each pair, with both teachers and students learning something about themselves as the students not only practice their French but open up about their issues and concerns. The stories cross paths during a film shoot featuring Jeremy's wife.

The prose is elegant and engaging; the book is primarily written in third-person present tense, lending an immediacy to the events. The interior design also shows maps of each pair's journey throughout Paris on the day in question.

Highly recommended for those interested in French culture, or who enjoy a good literary novel.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By L. Young VINE VOICE on August 20, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
By page ten I was wondering how something so awful could get published? By page 30 I knew the author must have many friends in the publishing business. French Lessons consists of three novellas tied together by three different French tutors working for the same language school They are sent out for the day on an exploration of Paris with their student to improve the student's lanuage skills. In the first story handsome tutor Nico(everyone in the book is handsome or beautiful, of course), is assigned to spend the day with Josie. Josie is an American French teacher escaping to Paris after the death of her much older, and much married lover, the father of one of her students. Here is a quote just to illustrate the dreadful writing, 'Young love teaches you how to love. You're so lucky. Most of us spend years trying to learn the ways of love'. So cliched! The author indulges in the current fashion of turning nouns into verbs, 'she...metroed back to her hotel'. And then there are the grammatical mistakes, 'Just his father and I'. It scares the daylights out of me that this author actually teaches creative writing. Clearly she needs to take such a course herself from someone who actually can write. I won't bother going into the other two novellas. I think you get the point. This is mindless nonsense.

Yes, I know there is a certain type of lazy reader who enjoys this sort of book. I hope you enjoy wasting your time on this book, I know I didn't.
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