"Almost French" is the story of a young (20..) Australian journalist who takes on the challenge to stay with a stranger. Travelling in Budapest, she meets her future husband, who asks her to live with him for a while in Paris. Excited by the prospect, she quits her job and starts work as a freelance writer.
However the term "freelance" seems to mean rejections, icy replies and no money. Meanwhile, she also struggles to fit in with Frederic's French friends, who strictly follow outdated societal norms.
As she makes her future in France permanent, we watch Sarah transform from a foreigner to someone...."Almost French"! Although I found the book a little slow in the beginning, I really enjoyed it.
The two main characters of the book are in love- but this isn't a romantic novella. Turnbull describes the struggles involved with fitting in- everything from her clothes to her accent, from her food to her mannerisms must be changed! She uses guidebooks that teach foreign expats how to be French- but once she gets to know more people, Sarah starts making the rules herself.
There are many underlying themes to this story. One of the obvious ones would be travel, but others include societal norms, global culture, love, food, tradition, standing out, heritage and so many more! I realized only after putting the book down how casually the themes had been packed into each sentence.
One of the things I loved about Turnbull's writing was how casual it was. Even when she was talking of serious issues- her writing came across as convincing not pushy. Her opinions were strong, but I never felt like she wanted me to share her opinion.
Another thing I loved was her curiosity. Through the book, Sarah describes various French traditions- that she found absurd. However, she also talks about the reasons behind the tradition and whether or not she feels its justified.
This book has a new character cropping up every now and then- but most of them are static. The dynamic ones are most of the foreigners, Frederic, some of the French friends, and Turnbull herself. Although some other characters showed change- it was most evident in Turnbull, perhaps because the story was told through her point of view.
Filled with subtle comedy, strains of friendship and lots more- I'd recommend this book to anyone who's tired of reading the same kind of story again and again. Trust me- this one's quite unique!