Beginning French: Lessons From a Stone Farmhouse by Les Americains


The flowers on the cover, the word French and many hearts are all aflutter. What is more enchanting the the countryside of Europe- France or elsewhere? But what happens to that enchantment you are under when you are responsible for the restoration of the little stone farmhouse as it’s falling apart all around you? What about when you don’t speak French fluently and what you do is all wrong? How much worse is it when you’re choking on everything falling down around you? Ah, mes amis, there can still be joy- you just may need to get a little tipsy.

This isn’t just for those of you in the throes of Francophilia… Though there is a certain charm about all those foreign countries, with both sides of my family from Hungary I understand all the charm European countries have for Americans. Just as much as any foreign place, I had my own daydreams about Japan before we moved there. What is lovely about this memoir is the honesty. What looks like a dream from afar may be crumbling within. Hey, part of a home’s charm is all the leaks and cracks… maybe more of a nightmare than a dream on your pocketbook but it’s the lessons your learn on the way that is the sweetest fruit. That fruit may be fermented and taste like a glass of wine… but whatever keeps you going!
Just because you take French doesn’t mean you are French, but moving there may get you a lot closer. There is something so comforting about other’s foolishness, isn’t there? The electric issue… when my family and I lived in England we had a problem in our house, I kept getting shocked when I leaned my hip on the oven… didn’t know some moron had drilled into the wiring when he put cabinets in prior to us moving in… so I can relate to the serious problems. I remember the shock (pun fully intended) on the handyman’s face and his mad rush to seal off the area. “You could have been electrocuted”… well.. but it’s soooo charming!!!!
They are “les Americains”- of course they are. We wear our Americanness like a skin, whether we realize it or not. The presence of other Americans doesn’t change things, they can still spot us miles away. But when you’re the only Americans for miles… well congratulations, you are the biggest show! But there is something fun in the bumbling and fumbling and newness of trying to acclimate to a different life. Yanks or not… eventually you blend in, of course you humiliate yourself with your mispronunciations that come off as insults as you grin like an oblivious fool but you suddenly understand what immigrants feel like. So what if you have no clue how to restore or remodel, surely you can learn? Oui? Non?
My husband’s family is French, my daughter has been learning it for years so I certainly understand how complicated it can be and how someone like her makes it seem so easy… no, it’s not! Take heart, those of us who sputter French foolishly in our attempts to speak it give laughter to many.
This book was a lot of fun, I think of all the little projects through the years we have taken on and how out of hand things get. I also remember all the British DIY horror stories we read about when we lived in the UK, so I relate to these French/restoration wannabes 🙂 Culture shock with DIY dust, what could possibly go wrong? What could go right?

A fun summer read to make you feel a little bit better that you can’t afford your own French Stone Farmhouse, and by turns a little envious too.


Publish Date:  June 1, 2016






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