Review: Beginning French by Les Americains

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆

About the Book:

First they took French. Then they took leave of their senses. They bought a 400-year-old cottage in rural France from an ad on the Internet. Their “completely restored” farmhouse certainly looked charming, but the pool leaked, the walls cracked, and the electricity fizzled whenever they switched on the kettle.

This is the wry and witty memoir of les Américains, Eileen and Marty, joined by their chef-daughter Sara. Their dream of being French leads them into uncharted territory where “oh la la” takes on a whole different meaning.

Before they can even move in, a freak accident destroys the interior of the house. An ancient wisteria threatens to uproot the kitchen floor. The wildlife continually tries to take up residence, and the pool becomes a watery hole that swallows up euros. And then there’s Jacqueline.

The only way Les Américains can salvage their sanity is by adopting a simple, time-tested mantra: “Have a setback, have a drink.” Soon they’re buying rosé by the case.

Whether you’re a traveler, foodie, Francophile, or home-improvement veteran, Beginning French will enchant you with its vivid portrayal of part-time life in southwest France. Home chefs will enjoy the 12 Dordogne-inspired recipes, and English speakers will appreciate the interactive glossary of French terms.


Guest Reviewer Tom’s Thoughts:

Beginning French by les Américains is a short, breezy, and thoroughly enjoyable story for all of us Francophiles.  While it may seem all too familiar to readers of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, this story does not disappoint.

The author’s descriptions of French country life are well written and full of charm.  The accounts of french homeowner despair and subsequent perseverance often had me laughing out loud, and reminiscing about my own experiences.  An added bonus and some of the most enjoyable reading comes from the authors detailed descriptions of the many French culinary experiences….and the recipes for their favorite dishes are included!

The authors reveal enough of themselves for us to form opinions….I for one was not an early fan of Marty, the husband and father.  In the end, though, I was won over, as Marty, in a bit of relationship turmoil with wife Eileen, is delivered a healthy dose of charming French relationship philosophy on his TGV ride to Paris.  This is the best part of the book, not only for Marty, but for me as well.


About the Authors: Les Américains is the nom de plume of Eileen McKenna and Marty Neumeier, an American couple who divide their time between California and France. Eileen is the kind of person who can predict an entire plot from the first line of a novel or the first scene in a movie. Marty is a design consultant who has written six bestselling books on innovation, creativity, and branding. Their daughter Sara, who appears in Beginning French and contributes the recipes, is a New York food stylist who began her career at Martha Stewart Living. The trois Américains meet every summer in France—to cook, write, and share photos and travel tips



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