Book Reviews: Beginning French by les Américains

Book Reviews: Beginning French by les Américains

What starts as a lark—an adult-education class in beginning French—becomes a life-changing adventure for two Americans, Eileen and Marty. They end up buying a “completely restored” 400-year-old farmhouse in the Dordogne, with a sparkling pool, a beautiful barn, and a massive Godin stove for their chef-daughter Sara.

Yet the road to hell (and Perigord) is paved with good intentions. They soon find that their dream house has it in for them. The boiler explodes, destroying their newly decorated interior. The electricity goes on the fritz, the wildlife tries to move in with them, and the pool turns a deadly shade of gray. Then along comes Jacqueline, a young French woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Marion Cotillard. Spoiler alert: things get worse fast.

Unlike other memoirs in the “buy-a-house-in-France” genre, Beginning French doesn’t cast the local inhabitants as quaint, wily, or inscrutable. The village boules players and a pair of English neighbors teach les Américains a number of “French lessons” they never learned in language class—some funny, some profound. They discover that “money isn’t wealth—it’s only potential wealth,” and that “some dreams turn out to be the meaning of your life.” Along the way, they share mouth-watering descriptions of food and a dozen recipes from their talented daughter. Be sure to have a glass of rosé, a baguette, and some goat cheese handy while you read this enchanting story. Eileen, Marty, and Sara will win your heart with their humor, self-deprecation, and bravery in battle. Move over Peter Mayle, the Americans have landed.

Beginning French: Lessons from a Stone Farmhouse, by les Américains. List price: softcover $16; ebook $4.99. Available on Amazon.

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