Thursday, March 19, 2009
I've been chipping away at my bedside pile o' books with a solemn vow not to buy anything new until I've read what I've got. (Fellow bibliophiles, go ahead and roll your eyes--you know better--we're weak and greedy. But I'm really trying. Seriously. I haven't even ordered the new Aunt Dimity book OR the latest Louise Penny.) Today I finished Rebecca Ramsey's French by Heart.
Since I took French classes in middle school, I've harbored a fantasy of living in the land of good cheese and wine. I came darn close in real life--Wisconsin has good cheese and my sons can really whine. My wanderlust and curiosity is somewhat sated by books like Extra Virgin and Under the Tuscan Sun --I can live vicariously in another culture without totally disrupting heath, home and my marriage. But despite all the charm of all the countries I read about, France is one of the most curious--the people seem so much cooler, more stylish, more practical and less approachable. It's the land of farmers, renaissance art, democracy, croissants, jazz, and chain smoking.
I've read Rebecca's blog Wonders Never Cease for about a year now and through it she gives a little smattering of her life, but reading her book was like spending a weekend visiting with her--I came away feeling like I know her better AND I've had everyday life in France explained to me. Not at all braggy-braggy like Frances Mayes, Rebecca writes an honest memoir chock-full of fascinating people like Madame Mallet (who I would love to meet in real life) and her son's preschool teacher. Instead of writing a typcial chronology, each chapter stands alone as a slice of life, a lesson, a realization that results from spending 4 years of life in France. From discovering the secret potion of youth and vigor to jumping out of her car to tear down a circus poster, Rebecca's adventures were foreign and familiar at the same time. I have a French friend and I wish I'd read Rebecca's book years ago because so much of the contradicting, confusing aspects of "the French way of life and thinking" became clearer to me after reading French by Heart.
Insightful, tender, and charming, I give Rebecca's book 5 cupcakes/stars/bottles of wine. Go, get it, read it, and fall in love with the French. I'm bringing my copy to book club tonight to pass along to the next lucky reader.