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Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris    by Sarah Turnbull order for
Almost French
by Sarah Turnbull
Order:  USA  Can
Gotham, 2004 (1990)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Journalist Sarah Turnbull was working her way around Europe when she met a Frenchman in Bucharest and promised to meet him in Paris. And, as they say, that's all she wrote. Not literally, of course, as Turnbull is dedicated to writing. But Frederic captivated her and she ended up also falling in love with Paris.

Magical, mystifying, enchanting, Paris was all she had hoped it would be and more. But the Parisian's view of an outsider made her period of becoming accepted into a baffling study of French (and, even more so, Parisian) culture. She learned that Aussie ways were not the same as those of the French. Love of food and the art of degustation top the list for the French. Long dinners - spent discussing the world in general and Paris in particular, between discreet sips of fine wine - baffled the Australian who loved a good old barbie with lots of Fosters.

It must have taken great perseverance on her part to sit through endless meals while the other diners studiously ignored her. She never gave up her longing for her hometown of Sydney and her family and friends. Visiting quelled those desires, as she spent time in Australia, and her family and friends also visited her in France. Her mother learned to bring her good clothes to Paris - the smart Parisian does not go about in shorts and Birkenstocks.

Descriptions of prowling the streets of Paris sounded like something I would love to do arrive somewhere and live as a native. Finding an apartment in a good neighborhood one your friends would not look down on proved to be difficult. But, the couple's luck held and they found one they could live with, even though it was six floors up with no elevator. And readers learn that dogs play an important role in French life. Turnbull discovered that, happily.

This is a revealing book centered on the social and economic life of Parisians, and describing how they look at the world and decide who to let into their circle. It's a well-written book that champions Turnbull's decision to continue her career. It would behoove anyone planning to travel to France, Paris in particular, to read Almost French to understand just where they would stand in a Frenchman's eye.

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