First they took French. Then they took leave of their senses. They bought a 400-year-old cottage in rural France from an ad on the Internet. Their “completely restored” farmhouse certainly looked charming, but the pool leaked, the walls cracked, and the electricity fizzled whenever they switched on the kettle.
This is the wry and witty memoir of les Américains, Eileen and Marty, joined by their chef-daughter Sara. Their dream of being French leads them into uncharted territory where “oh la la” takes on a whole different meaning.
Before they can even move in, a freak accident destroys the interior of the house. An ancient wisteria threatens to uproot the kitchen floor. The wildlife continually tries to take up residence, and the pool becomes a watery hole that swallows up euros. And then there’s Jacqueline.
The only way Les Américains can salvage their sanity is by adopting a simple, time-tested mantra: “Have a setback, have a drink.” Soon they’re buying rosé by the case~Goodreads Blurb
Reading through the description of the book, I couldn’t help but have a wiggling nudge of suspicion that I had read this book before. Americans going off to other countries, buying houses that need to be fixed up while facing foreign bureaucracy and new taxes and laws. Not only that it is a common enough theme, but I had watched Under the Tuscan Sun a few nights before, so it really stood out. For a bit of escapist travel fluff, Beginning French is a nice quick read that isn’t very problematic.
At only 205 pages, it only took me about an evening to finish up. The problem I had was not the length but the makeup of the length. With half the story being about the house and the ensuing cracks and flaws that come with an old house, the other half was strangely filled with the equivalent of a marriage counselor's session. I understand that such a big project as this can strain a marriage but I’m not sure that publishing a book about your house and putting that in there really fits. I think that Beginning French would have made a lovely blog, and the website the authors have done up is extremely easy to use and absolutely lovely. As a book I feel as though it was just not enough. Though padded with some delicious looking recipes (I am especially eager to try the onion jam) and an easy to use French to English glossary in the eBook version, I would only recommend this to people looking for a night’s escape to an idyllic French countryside.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley in exchange for honest feedback*
Goodreads says this about the authors: Les Américains is the nom de plume of Eileen McKenna and Marty Neumeier, an American couple who divide their time between California and France. Eileen is the kind of person who can predict an entire plot from the first line of a novel or the first scene in a movie. Marty is a design consultant who has written six bestselling books on innovation, creativity, and branding. Their daughter Sara, who appears in Beginning French and contributes the recipes, is a New York food stylist who began her career at Martha Stewart Living. The trois Américains meet every summer in France—to cook, write, and share photos and travel tips with their followers.
Freelance Editor & Reviewer