Saturday, May 30, 2009

Almost French

Thanks again to my literary patroness B for the next book on my reading list... Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

Aussie girl meets Parisian boy, they fall in love, settle down and live happily ever after.... you know, eventually. ;)

C'est la vie.

I've read a fair few travel memoirs since coming to Thailand. I have a common complaint against all of them, and it is admittedly unreasonably. They are all written by ... writers. Not just writers, but worse, *journalists*. I don't know, it gives all the books the same flavor. Yes, they still experience the highs and lows, the adventures of travel. And they, in general, express themselves well. But I get tired of reading about how they go to point A to interview so & so, and they go to point B to interview so & so. It ends up being as much of a behind the scenes look at being a writer as it is about the places they actually go to. I'd really like to read about the adventures of an average Joe/Jane who travels for a change. If you know of such a book - tell me!

That petty complaint out of the way.... let's move on to the real criticisms. Do you know, I think what I enjoy most about reading travel memoirs is picking on the author/adventurer. I'm so bad. Actually, my one complaint is that she spends a fair amount of time in the beginning of the book moaning about how she's stuck in her apartment all day and I just wanted to scream at her "SO GO OUTSIDE!" Yeah, she's far from the center of town, yeah, she doesn't have anyone to go with. I guess I just have no tolerance for people who can't solve a basic problem like "I"m bored because I'm stuck inside all day." Rayong is about as far from Paris as you can get and still... if I walk out my front door, I'm 10 times more likely to have some kind of interaction, some kind of excitement or adventure as I would be if I just stayed in my room all day. OK - seriously... all complaints over now!

While she's nowhere near as funny as Bill Bryson, I did smile as she went through the trials and tribulations of adjusting to a new culture. She mortifies her boyfriend by wearing sweatpants to the bakery "It's not nice for the baker!" he exclaims. While interviewing a top military officer she uses the informal 'tu' form (noting that his own wife probably uses the 'vous' form with him) and bids him a very casual "bye bye". She goes through the typical stages of culture shock, initial fascination, then struggle & resentment, and eventually acceptance. Gradually she begins to understand more about French culture and French people. She adapts in some ways, learning to stand up for herself against rude service people, beginning to dress better, and of course, buying a dog. But in important ways she learns to accept herself as she is, coming to terms with the fact that she will never be fully French nor will she ever again be fully Australian. Overall it's a sweet read with a few interesting insights into life in Paris.

It's hardly a life-changing book, but it's a good light read. And well, I guess it would be mandatory reading for anyone involved in any kind of long-term relationship with a Frenchman (cough cough B cough cough =P ). Recommended for Francophiles!

TAG: Code Watermelon


jovaliquilts said...

I just read that book a few months ago. I lived in Paris for a year and boy did I relate to some of her frustrations! It was a light but fun read and I hadn't thought about the book beyond that. What I thought was curious is that she spent so little time on her personal relationship with her husband, although that's what motivated her to move to Paris.

Rebel said...

I know what you mean. At first I thought they were just friends (or just a fling) and then suddenly she's moving in with him...there was only the briefest mention of the romantic atmosphere, nothing specific at all.

On the one hand I can understand not wanting your romantic details published in a book... but it does leave quite a lot out.

Batty said...

Sounds like a fun read. I haven't had much time for anything of late (work...), but I think I'll go looking for some relatively brainless stuff soon, or my brain will rot.

mlle b said...

I should mention that my mother sent it to me to read.....I just figured you needed a lot of variety!! (And I'm going to try and send some more in the next week or so -- long live the traveling library!)

Michael5000 said...

I don't think you're bad; I think you have a shrewd sense of what makes a lot of travel writing really very uninteresting.

The kind of thing you mention is why I get MY travel writing at: Rebel's Work in Progress!