Karen / Memoir / Nonfiction / Nonfiction Book Club / Travel Writing

Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

Almost French was the pick for the non-fiction book discussion in February. So let me sum up the evening for you: If you loved Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert there is a slight, and I mean slight chance you may like Almost French. Lots of comparisons here: finding yourself, finding love, finding and eating unusual food, finding places to write your memoirs, etc. The one big difference, you did not dislike Elizabeth Gilbert at the end.

Almost French is the memoir of Sarah Turnbull, an Australian television reporter who decides to travel the world before she gets “too old” to enjoy it. Quite early in her trip, she meets Frederic Veniere at a dinner in Budapest. When he asks her to come visit him in France, she does so. I mean, who wouldn’t throw caution to the wind and go to a foreign country and culture to be with a man you just met? Ok, good for her. And she winds up falling in love and decides to stay in France. Here’s where it gets strange – she loathes France. She dislikes the people, the food, their apartment, etc.

Here is where the discussion got interesting.

Over and over, the group said things like “more characterization was needed”, “miserable”, “frustrating” when describing the author. For example: one member said it was “crawling” through sand” to get through some of the chapters. (I loved that line!) “There was a 10-page epilogue. Why???” “Why did she say in France if she hated it so much?” “And that dog; who cares???”

One positive thought – her descriptions of the culture were quite good and possibly dead on. I do not want to offend so I will say no more.


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