I totally have a thing at the moment for reading memoirs/autobiographies about people living different lives. Rural community? Love it. Icelandic remoteness? Love it. France? TOTALLY love it. So much so that I read We’ll Always Have Paris pretty much this time last year whilst in France. Hoping to recreate the vibe (this time in a tent in the Lake District) I packed Almost French by Sarah Turnbull alongside my thermals.
Almost French – The Blurb
Backpacking around Europe, twenty-something Sarah Turnbull meets Frederic and impulsively accepts his invitation to visit him for a week in Paris. Eight years later, she is still there – and married to him. The feisty Sydney journalist swaps vegemite for vichyssoise and all things French, but commits the fatal errors of bowling up to strangers at classy receptions, helping herself to champagne, laughing too loudly and (quelle horreur!) rushing out for a baguette in her ‘pantalons de jogging’. But Paris’ maddening, mysterious charm proves irresistible and Sarah makes spectacular progress. She finds work as a freelance journalist, learns to survive Parisian dinner parties and how to deal with grim-faced officialdom. As she navigates the highs and lows of Parisian life, covering the haute couture fashions shows and discovering the hard way the paradoxes of France today, Sarah succeeds in becoming ‘almost French’.
Same but different
My initial thoughts were that the two books were very similar, both women fell in love with Frenchmen, went to live in Paris and lived happily ever after, after first living unhappily ever after. Both encountered severe rudeness and found it difficult to mix/make friends despite speaking the language and living with a native. Yet the books were equally very different. The Parisians love of dogs was a new one on me and as Sarah is an Australian writer her view on life and her experiences made it a totally different read. My personal favourite sections were the haute cuisine and haute couture chapters. The pages could quite easily be removed from the book and put straight into a glossy magazine.
It’s always hard to criticise a memoir as it’s someones life you’re reading about. However my one complaint that I wasn’t reading it pool side could hardly be attributed to Turnbull. When reading a memoir I often think it would be interesting to read things from a partner’s point of view, to provide the flip side to the story. If anyone knows anything where the opposite side of the story is told please let me know.
The book has only served to heighten my love affair with France (albeit from further away this year). and my appetite for french food and travel memoirs remains voracious. If you liked Sarah’s writing she has another book, All Good Things continuing where Almost French left off.