Friday, August 15, 2008

Almost French - Book Review

Almost French
by Sarah Turnbull
Nicholas Brealey Publishing 2003.

Last summer I read a book about Paris written by an American. It was called C'est La Vie by Susie Gershman. Someone wrote a comment and mentioned another book called Almost French. Well its taken me a year to finally find my own copy. I have now read Almost French and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

When is an elevator not an elevator?
When it is a lift.
Nine years ago, I was perfectly comfortable calling a lift a lift. That is after all what they are. But no. Here in Canada they are not lifts. They are of course - elevators.

Sarah Turnbull is an Australian. (Immigration note - Actually Sarah was born in USA of Australian parents, but does not use her American citizenship. Technically she is required by American law to be paying portion of all her taxes to the USA for the rest of her life - no matter where in the world she lives and no matter what other citizenship she uses).

As an Australian, Sarah uses British (or Aussie) English, just like New Zealand does - NZ being my country of origin. A lift is a lift is a lift.

Now that I have been in Canada for eight years, I always use the elevator. I never use the lift. So every time I read the word lift in this book, it jarred my reading. I had to slow down and translate what a lift was. And the lift was mentioned frequently because Sarah and her boyfriend (now husband) live on the top floor of a 6 storey apartment and there is NO lift. Er - I mean no elevator!!!

The only other problem I had was that Sarah made no mention of any immigration details. One cannot just go visit France (or any country really) for a week and just decide to stay for the rest of their life, which is what she did. There is a LOT of paperwork involved in being allowed to stay. There was no mention of paperwork at all. Except right at the end for their wedding.

Other than that, this was a very readable book. Finally someone who tells it like it really is in France. The French are very fussy about clothes, about dining out, about dinner parties and about foreigners trying to pretend they are French.

As much as I love french culture, I dont think I want to live in Paris, Susie Gershman never mentioned these details. She mostly mentioned the paperwork required to do buy a house, to do home improvements (which Sarah also mentions) and to do this, that and the other. The French love their bureacracy.

I am happy that I married a French-Canadian man instead. That way I get the French language all around me, but none of the culture. And the paperwork. Oh the paperwork. We went through FIVE years of government paperwork as I applied to be a permanent resident of Canada.

Thankfully that is all finally behind me, and I can legally APPLY to become a citizen of Canada at the end of this year - just 4 months away. But I wont be doing that because I cannot afford the $200 necessary to file the paperwork. Not while I am at school.

An update on Sarah from online says that she and her husband moved back to France in 2007 after 3 years away. They still do not have children. Just the dog, Maddie.

I read this book for the (Memoirs) In Their Shoes Challenge.

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