Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris…

Paris in July…goes into August and into the rest of my life. I just can’t stay away from a good Parisian memoir, and Turnbull’s account of her 6 years in Paris is no exception. Its actually one of my favorite memoirs due to its honesty and Turnbull’s ability to depict Paris in a thoughtful way. What really stuck out to me is that Turnbull doesn’t glamorize Paris and she doesn’t sugar coat the negatives of the city. Her experiences there, for better or for worse are her experiences. It’s a hard feat, and I’m realizing how many of the other memoirs just gloss over the racism, the cold façade of locals, the bureaucratic mess that is the government offices. Turnbull actually addresses these topics. Her’s was a memoir that did not leave me jealous, or rushing to move to Paris.

She loves the city, and she has fully adapted to Paris life. But it was a long and hard process. One that other memoirs don’t really address. This is a good one to read when I get that travel itch and crave freshly baked baguettes and inspirational architecture. I’ve been watching more French movies and listening to more French music this month, maybe due to Turnbull. Who knows. I wish I had her life. She went into Paris as already well-established world traveler. She meets Frederic at a party in Eastern Europe and they chatted for only less than an hour before he invited her to stay with him in Paris. What was meant to be a two-week stay turned into 6 years. Along the way, Turnbull dealt with a lot of culture clash, as Paris is much more restrained than her native Australia. She went through a quiet and low metamorphosis, although true to the title of her book, never really became French.

The book takes places in the mid 1990s, but Paris is timeless in a way that not much has changed socially. Contemporary memoirs and those going father back still seem to hit upon the same themes of French life. 1. The food 2. The fashion 3. Manners 4. Family and close friends 5. Bureaucracy & 6. Feeling like an outsider, but then winning over the local butcher/cheese monger, etc. I think virtually all French memoirs cover these 6 themes extensively. Turnbull added the growing racism and resentment of immigrants in France, as well as going into detail about how blunt Parisians are to offer “advice” and criticisms. Paris is a country full of contradictions Turnbull finds out. Contradictions that the French innately know and navigate. Contradictions that always leave others always peering through the window rather than inside with the party.

Almost French is an entertaining and revealing book that I would recommend to anyone interested in travel memoirs or books on Paris.

One response to “Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

  1. We share similar taste here. I liked this memoir and looked for more written by Sarah Turnbull. I liked reading about her cultural education there and how she adapted.

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