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Almost French: A New Life in Paris [Paperback]

Sarah Turnbull
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 July 2003
In the tradition of Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun, Chris Stewart's A Parrot in the Pepper Tree or Peter Mayle without the pile of stones, Almost French is a perceptive, poignant, often hilarious mixture of personal memoir and travel. As a student at University, Sarah Turnbull dropped French after failing the subject during her first year. Then, during a career break from journalism to travel the world, she finds herself changing her plans to settle permanently in Paris. Almost French is the witty account of her new life in Paris and the difficulties she faces in trying to integrate fully into Parisian culture while trying to establish herself as a freelance journalist. Sarah gives the reader a fascinating insight into her love/hate relationship with the French through humorous examples of runins with her new countrymen. Everything from using the correct language and etiquette to address everyone from the local baker to a senior figure in the French Ministry of Defence, from how you laugh and what you serve on your dinner table, to what you wear, all prove vital to being accepted as one of them. Finally, as the title suggests, Sarah succeeds in becoming 'almost French'.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing (14 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857883160
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857883169
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,134,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A funny, heart-warming, romantic and poignant tale of fitting in." -- Living France magazine, July 2003

"An entertaining tale of being a fish out of water in one of the most magical cities in the world." -- Everything France, July 2003

"Best, most seductive and funniest travel memoir this summer is Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French." -- What’s On In London, 16th July 2003

"France is the new Italy ‘Turnbull’s insights into French culture are witty, insightful, and told with a journalist’s skill.." -- AB&P

"Required reading for anyone contemplating a spot of French leave." -- marie claire, August 2003

A marketing book for non-marketers ... you'll find practical advice that makes you re-evaluate how your messages are conveyed and received. -- Dr Michael Riley, Senior Lecturer in Education, Bath Spa University College

It's good to see a book that squarely puts the word SALES back into marketing ... required reading. -- Edwin Mutton, Director-General, Institute of Sales Promotion

Provides a wealth of insights that will help anyone with marketing responsibility ... turns theory into positive real-world results. -- Peter Muscutt, Marketing Manager, ChevronTexaco

About the Author

Sarah Turnbull is a freelance writer. and formerly a television journalist with SBS, she began working in print media after moving to Paris from Sydney eight years ago. Since then she has been writing regularly for magazines ranging from the Weekend Australian Magazine to Australian Gourmet Traveller and she is contributing editor to marie claire. In the 1998 MPA awards Sarah was named Feature Writer of the Year for three investigative stories published in marie claire. As a student at the Australian National University, Sarah studied Politics, Fine Art and French. She dropped French after failing the subject during her first year. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well done 10 Nov 2004
"Almost French" is the story of a woman who goes to France to visit a French lawyer she has only met a couple times before and barely knows. Of course, she gets caught up in the romance of the city and stays on to live there. Despite this description this is not some drippy love story but rather a wonderfully observant series of accounts told from a journalists point of view. For those who have visited Paris, and those yet to make the trip, this book will amaze and entertain you. Turnbull comes to the realization that despite the fact that she will never fit in perfectly in Paris, her life is in and of itself perfect.
I especially enjoyed the day to day accounts of regular everyday life - dinner parties, meeting friends, finding employment, traveling, cooking, shopping, etc. The accounts of her dog are very amusing. I hope to see a follow up book from this author!
From the author of The Difference Now.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 18 July 2004
Brilliant! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Being an English woman and having on two occasions uprooted to France for a year, I get so tired of reading all those rose tinted novels about moving to France which talk whimsically about how wonderful it is, how friendly all the locals are, how they all laugh good naturedly at your attempts to speak French, how all misunderstandings are sorted out over a glass of red wine. All these books paint a false picture of living in France but here is one which tells it like it is, it is hard, it can reduce you to tears, you can feel like screaming at the 'friendly locals'. I am a francophile but I'm the first to admit, the country and its people can be infuriating and unfriendly towards foreigners. Sarah Turnbull tells her story with honesty and humour, I recognised so much of what she wrote. Anybody who loves France or who has expereinced living there will enjoy this book.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cure for Culture Shock 13 Jan 2004
By takingadayoff VINE VOICE
An young Aussie journalist charges into France, determined to win it over. France resists.
Some of the best non-fiction of any kind is written by journalists. Turnbull's open and straightforward style works well here. Her narrative reads like a series of letters from a good friend, but the writing is too good for it to have been dashed off.
I loved reading about her dinner parties (disaster), getting along with her future in-laws (disaster), and learning to reconcile Australian casualness with Parisian attention to appearance (less of a disaster once her boyfriend talked her into tossing the sweat pants).
I was especially taken with how Turnbull managed to re-started her career in a country whose language she had flunked in college. What determination!
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Learn how to get on in Paris... 19 April 2006
On her backpacking travels around Europe, 20 something Australian, Sarah Turnbull, meets Frenchman, Frederic, who invites her to Paris for a week. A week turns into eight years as she finds herself married to Frederic and throwing out her beloved tracksuit bottoms in a bid to look more sophisticated in one of the most fashion conscious capitals of the world!

Relocating to another country proves to be quite a trial for Sarah Turnbull as she comes across inevitable differences in culture and a different way of life which are at first testing, but which she comes to embrace.

This non-fiction novel offers an insightful and often witty account from an expat's point of view. We follow her on her journey as she commits faux pas ranging from being too gregarious at swank parties and not pampering her pooch to the Parisian standard to wearing her "pantaloons de jogging" on her early morning run to the bakery (wrong, wrong, wrong!) and laughing too loudly! Things that she takes for granted in Sydney are not quite so acceptable in Paris, but she comes to learn, understand and accept how things work.

Over the years, she gets work as a freelance journalist, learns how to conduct herself at Parisian dinner parties and how to evade strict planning permission laws. She also gets used to the heavy bureaucracy and waiting her turn in the cheese shop. Eventually, Sarah becomes accustomed to the French way of life and overcomes her difficulties to become almost French.

This book would appeal to anyone who has an interest in France, and in particular, Paris. It is educational, without being patronising or disrespectful towards the French.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and educational 4 April 2005
"Almost French" is a remarkable story of a woman who goes to France to visit an acquaintance, a French lawyer. It is the romantic nature of the city of Paris that rapped her. She came to enjoy the day to day regular life of , strolls in the city, dinner parties, meeting friends, enjoying the flow of the city, finding employment, meeting new people, traveling, learning more about the French, cooking, the night life, shopping and many other activities. This is one of the books that do not paint a false picture of living in France, and tells it the way it truly is. Living in a foreign country and culture is hard. Before you get used to it, there are times when you almost get reduced to tears, when you feel lost, when you feel like venting your listlessness at the 'friendly locals. This book is a fascinating series of accounts told from a journalist's point of view. For anyone harboring romantic visions of becoming an expatriate, more so in a country like France or a city like Paris, I recommend this book. Even for those who have already visited Paris, and those yet to visit, this is a book to read.
This memoir of Sarah Turnbull's move to Paris from Australia is a fun to read book. I was amused by her recount of her dog. I am looking forward to more books by this author.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I can recognise the characters
As an expat Brit living in France I am familiar with many of the things that Sarah encountered as she tried to fit in in France. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mrs Susan T Denny
4.0 out of 5 stars Immerse yourself in French life
I loved this book! I have a bit of an obsession with how certain European cities live and their culture, and, being non-fiction, this gave me a wonderful inside perspective on what... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Claire Lodge
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab Paris
This so described the Paris I know and love. Anyone who has been to Paris will love it and if you haven't been will make you want to go!
Published 3 months ago by Pixie Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
An intelligent, in-depth look at the real Paris and its inhabitants. The authoress has even taken the trouble to research the history and backgrounds of the various wards... Read more
Published 4 months ago by mary s.
2.0 out of 5 stars A nightmare vision of the English speaker abroad
I've read a lot of France based ex pat memoirs in the past few years, and this is among the poorest.

It's unevenly written. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Most enjoyable
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Visit France a lot and this book is a true insight into the French way of life and the French people. Beautifully written and very interesting. Read more
Published 7 months ago by SER
5.0 out of 5 stars very good book.
Enjoyed book and it reminded me of my many visits to Paris. Some of the facts she included were interesting and relevant
Published 8 months ago by M. Steinmann
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Paris
A thoroughly enjoyable and interesting read I could really imagine the Paris Sarah described. Don't think I would like to live in Paris.
Published 9 months ago by P. TURNER
1.0 out of 5 stars Cultural division?
Perhaps because the author is Australian or perhaps it's just the way she is but I found it hard to empathise with her supposed trials and tribulations on moving to France to be... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Kitty Jackson
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb guide book...
A guide to living in Paris and understanding the culture and social traditions of the Parisians, based around an autobiography
Published 14 months ago by P. Nightingale
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