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Almost French:
Love and a New Life in Paris

Book Review

book cover Almost French
Sarah Turnbull
Hardcover,  304 pages
Gotham Books (Penguin)
US $25, Can. $37.50

photoIn the mid-1990s, Sarah Turnbull--a young television reporter from Sydney--was enjoying a year's sabbatical in Europe. In Romania, she met a vacationing attorney named Frédéric. The dapper French lawyer invited her to visit him in Paris, and before long the new Australian expat was adjusting to life as an Antipodal Parisienne.

Almost French is the story of Sarah Turnbull's journey through the stages of expatriate life: discovery, isolation, frustration, and fitting in. We travel with her as she:

  • Fights boredom in a suburban flat;

  • Is plunged headlong into French family life on country weekends;

  • Endures snubs from well-bred Parisians at dinner parties;

  • Battles with French bureaucracy;

  • Wrestles with a new career as a freelance writer;

  • Searches for a new apartment with Frédéric;

  • Settles into a sixth-story walkup above a sweatshop in the center of Paris;

  • Interviews Christian Lacroix and Alain Ducasse;

  • Acquires a dog and learns the French way of caring for it;

  • Volunteers in a Parisian soup kitchen;

  • Comes to terms with the French penchant for public urination;

  • And ultimately learns to accept "France itself, with all its paradoxes, its brusque aloofness and soulful warmth, its inwardness and outwardness, its paperwork and poetry, its power to fascinate and frustrate, to inspire love and anger."

Both of us have read Almost French, and we both loved the book (just as we enjoyed Suzy Gershman's C'est la Vie, a memoir by the Born to Shop guidebook author who moved to Paris a few years ago). Almost French is a "must read" for anyone who's ever dreamed of moving to Paris, or who can't resist travel narratives about living abroad.

Read Excerpt 1: Eating in France

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Inset photo: Thierry Chomel.