Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris

Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris

by Sarah Turnbull

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781592400829
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/05/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 349,392
Product dimensions: 5.42(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.86(d)
Age Range: 18 - 14 Years

About the Author

Sarah Turnbull is the author of the international bestseller Almost French. She now lives in Sydney with her husband, Frédéric.

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

I left Australia hoping to cram a lifetime of adventures into one unforgettable year. Instead, I ended up with a new life. I’d taken one year’s leave from my job as a television reporter in Sydney to travel around Europe. If I didn’t go now, I never would, warned a nagging voice in my head. Though, at twenty-seven I wasn’t much interested in hanging around youth hostels. The idea was to immerse myself in fascinating foreign cultures, to work as a freelance journalist in Eastern Europe, which in my mind bubbled with unwritten, hard-hitting stories.

It was in Bucharest, Romania, that I met Frédéric. His English was sprinkled with wonderful expressions like ‘foot fingers’ instead of toes and he seemed charming, creative and complicated—very French, in other words. When he’d invited me to visit him in Paris, I’d hesitated just long enough to make sure he was serious before saying yes. Why not? After all, this is what travelling is all about, isn’t it: seizing opportunities, doing things you wouldn’t normally do, being open to the accidental?

That trip to Paris was more than eight years ago now. And except for four months when I resumed my travels, I have been living here ever since.

It was a city and culture I was familiar with—at least that’s what I thought back then. When I was a child, my family had toured France in a tiny campervan and my eyes had popped at the chocolates and the cheeses. At secondary school I studied French and saw a few films by Truffaut and Resnais, which had struck me as enigmatic in a very European way, although I couldn’t have said why. When I was sixteen we lived in England for a year and I came to Paris several times. In my mind, these experiences added up to knowledge of France and some understanding of its people. Then, a little over ten years later, my meeting with Frédéric drew me back, and when the time came to actually live in Paris, I figured belonging and integrating would take merely a matter of months.

Now, remembering my early naïveté draws a wry smile. The truth is, nearly all my preconceptions of France turned out to be false. It hardly needs to be said that living in a place is totally different from visiting it. And yet this blatantly obvious statement does need to be said, particularly about Paris, the most visited city in the world. A place I imagined to know after a few nights in a closet-size hotel room as a teenager and one summer holiday with a Frenchman sipping kir on café terraces.

At times the learning curve has seemed almost vertical. The social code I discovered in France wasn’t just different from the one I knew, it was diametrically opposed to it. For a long time, I couldn’t fathom the French and, to be fair, they couldn’t fathom me either. My clothes, my smile—even how much I drank—set me apart. During my first year, dinner parties turned into tearful trials. There I was, a confident twenty-eight-year-old with the confidence knocked out of me, spending cheese courses locked in somebody’s bathroom, mascara streaming down my cheeks.

It hasn’t all been tears and trials, of course. The truth is, if France failed to live up to some of my expectations, in other ways the reality has been far richer, a thousand times better than my clichéd visions. My work as a journalist has enabled me to meet people ranging from famous French fashion designers to master chefs. On a personal level I’d taken a headlong plunge into new territory as well. Put a very French Frenchman together with a strong-willed Sydney girl and the result is some fairly spectacular—and sometimes hilarious—cultural clashes.

If I had to pick one word to sum up my life in France, it’d have to be "adventure." Every moment has been vivid, intensely felt. No doubt many people who live in a foreign country would say the same thing. But there is, I think, something that sets France apart from many other parts of the world. I know of no other country that is so fascinating yet so frustrating, so aware of the world and its place within it but at the same time utterly insular. A nation touched by nostalgia, with a past so great—so marked by brilliance and achievement—that French people today seem both enriched and burdened by it. France is like a maddening, moody lover who inspires emotional highs and lows. One minute it fills you with a rush of passion, the next you’re full of fury, itching to smack the mouth of some sneering shopkeeper or smug civil servant. Yes, it’s a love–hate relationship. But it’s charged with so much mystery, longing and that French speciality—séduction—that we can’t resist coming back for more.

From where I write in Paris today, I see a foil shimmer of rooftops, a few orange chimney pots, quaintly crooked windows and lots of sky. Although by this city’s standards it’s nothing special, to me it is precious, this view. It makes me think back to a time when we didn’t have it, when we were living in a different apartment where I wasn’t nearly as happy. Those early difficult years in France seem a lifetime ago now, as though they were lived by someone else. So much has changed since then, including me, probably. The truth is, when I started to write this book I had trouble taking myself back to that time. I don’t know why it should have been so difficult. Either I’d forgotten or subconsciously didn’t want to remember or, being a journalist, I was paralyzed by the idea of writing in the first person. Probably a combination of all three.

For days and weeks, I sat staring at my rectangle of pearl gray sky. For inspiration I looked at old photos, read my early articles and Mum sent me all the letters I’d written from France, which she’d carefully kept. The memories came back gradually, growing sharper and brighter until I could see myself on that summer’s day almost eight years ago, excited but nervous, arriving in Paris in my safari shorts and flat, clumpy sandals, oblivious to the horror my outfit would inspire in any self-respecting Frenchman.

And suddenly it seemed as though it had happened only yesterday.

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Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was surprisingly interesting. I really enjoyed reading about the difference between the two cultures and how the author struggled to become more Parisian while still keep her own identity. The book is very informative about human nature in general and how important our nationalities are in forming out personality, opinions and ideas about everything from food to clothes and pretty much shaping us into the people that we are.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
huckfinn37 More than 1 year ago
Almost French is a great fish out of water memoir. It made me want to travel to France.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it. I found myself falling in love with Paris. The culture of France is really explored in here and you can't help but root for the author. I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this memoir.
MagWard More than 1 year ago
If you are trying to adjust to living in a new culture, this book is for you! Ms. Turnbull, who fell in love and moved to Paris as a result, shares her experiences in a lighthearted and loving way. After being baffled, hurt, shocked, frustrated and sometimes angered, she finally reaches a point where she appreciates and understands (to a point) her newly adopted culture. One comes away feeling enriched and informed by her experience. There are many aspects of culture we all take for granted; reading this book will change that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In hindsight, she discovers she has warmed to her host country. She came across to me as a spoiled 20-something, shocked that this new country/coulture was not accepting to her "differences". She is pleased ? that as an Aussie she is more accepted than if she were an American. The reader then learns through the trials of her story she was born in the USA! (one must shudder!) At first she whines, "I want to live in Paris", "I don't want to spend the weekend in the country". Only later, she learns to appreciate the country. And "why" does her boyfriend have to be from the "North" While I wonder, HOW could this man tolerate her? She is encouraged by "change" to the Paris, in government and culture. Personally, I visit 'strange' places to enjoy the difference. WHO would want Paris, of all places to change? As much as I wanted to enjoy a love story in Paris, I was disappointed.
Roiselives More than 1 year ago
Loved this book....gives such a personal, comprehensive view of Paris living.
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NatalieTahoe More than 1 year ago
Almost French by Sarah Turnbull is a memoir about the Australian author's time in Paris as she falls in love, learns the culture (or tries to fit in), and tries to get consistent work as a journalist. Perhaps it was because it was a travel memoir and fitting in that I thought so often of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, but within pages it held a completely separate voice for me. Sarah Turnbull has taken time off from her job in Australia to travel Europe -- she figures that she might as well do it now since she can afford to take the time and she has no commitments -- after all, why wait until much later in life when work and family obligations might get in the way? Off she goes to Europe, and while in Bucharest, she meets Frèdèric, and decides to do something different than she's ever done before and completely change her plans -- go to Paris to stay with a guy that she only met for a few days in Bucharest. Throwing caution to the wind she goes -- and settles into Paris and tries to find her place within the culture and the job market. This book is a hit in Australia and it was definitely a really pleasant read. I enjoyed her moments of confusion in trying to understand fashion and language, and there is one particular moment that I spluttered my coffee out with laughter for my combined shock and for feeling the author's complete embarrassment -- a simple moment in which she asks her new boyfriend in front of his friends if he would like his smoking pipe, when she mistakenly really asked him if he, ahem...would like something, um, sexual to occur. Made me laugh out loud!I felt for her trying to fit in and get used to it all, and as I've traveled quite a bit in my life and lived in multiple locations, I felt my understanding and my frustrations for her experiences grow as I read each page. It's tough to fit in sometimes! The only aspect that found me a little wanting was that I felt she wrote with such great detail on so many events and moments, but she skipped quite a bit on the love she had with Frèdèric which was the ultimate reason which compelled her to move to Paris in the first place. Perhaps it was out of respect for their intimacies (completely understandable) and perhaps I'm just an old romantic at heart, but I felt a tad removed from the blossoming love that they experienced within their relationship that would so compel this grounded and logical woman to completely forgo her plan to travel all of Europe and instead, after one week of meeting with a man, to move instead to Paris to begin life anew. Sarah Turnbull's descriptions of Parisian life, the eccentric characters she meets in a new neighborhood, and her ability (or lack thereof) to fit in fashionably at first, were quite endearing and offered a fun snapshot into her life. I cheered for her to find the right job, and enjoyed her journalistic cadence as Turnbull related each event with sometimes a distant voice and sometimes with close up scrutiny, one that ultimately turns into quite a fun trip into Parisian culture!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Almost French because of my few trips to France, a friend's love of all things French, and because it gives a great insight into a person living in France as their homw while not being a native. The French are a very reserved people with centuries of ingrown reserve. This is a light book with what could have been a sad, but instead, a happy ending.
Fact-or-Fiction More than 1 year ago
I loved the way she was able to be ambarrassed at herself - her lack of understanding the Parisians and the French. And, I appreciated that she interjected some French history without getting so weighted down. She gives descriptions of the areas of Paris in such prose it is like seeing a painting. She also shows her personal growth in how to deal with such a different culture than she was used to. She does not go for slap-stick humor, however she made me laugh out loud over several passages. The book gave me such insight that I wish I could have read it BEFORE our Paris trip. we were lucky - we'd planned our trip for April; even whenevery one said 'oh, surely, you will cancel your trip now that 9/11 has happened....'. The French were wonderful - some compassion for what happened in New York but I think an awful lot of 'ha, you americans are not so indefensible as you thought'. Considering her age, I was surprised at her not interjecting a lot of sex into the book.
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love2travel2gether More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading Almost French by Sarah Turnbull. I truly enjoyed this true story so much. As someone who loves learning about other cultures this book completely grabbed my attention. I loved hearing all of the stories of how Sarah became "Almost French." Although I am quite familiar with the French culture, having not yet visited France itself, this book opened my eyes to many things within the life of the Parisians I would never know by being a tourist. If you are someone who loves to hear about what life is really like in other cultures, particularly in the French culture, you will absolutely love Almost French.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
booksquirrel More than 1 year ago
It probably was much more fun to live this book. I enjoyed the first half of the book just fine, and it kind of got a little boring in the middle but picked up again in the last few chapters. I was tempted to skim over pages of food description as that stuff doesn't appeal to me. I like that Frederic is a constant throughout the book. I was worried he would get lost in there, but Sarah stuck true to the book's title. I would have liked to have read more intimate details about him and their relationship rather than just the tidbits of conversation and discussion about the French and their ways. I'm glad she talked about their wedding. I was worried she would leave that out. That was the best part of the book, and it was sweet. Two things that bothered me about the author's writing style: The first, she seemed a bit inconsistent, she was all over the place in some chapters skipping around to different subjects without good flow or transition. Second is the fact that she used the word "Gallic" quite alot. I was like, enough with Gallic already. I must have seen it on every other page sometimes. Her writing style isn't the best, but she did what she set out to do and told us a story of her love and new life in Paris. And she definitely made me want to visit...and get a dog. ;o)