Beginning French by les Américains Book Review


The trouble started when their dream came true.

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.

My Thoughts on Beginning French:

Packed with wanderlust and hilarity, 
Beginning French makes you want to pack up your suitcase and book a flight to the land of éclairs and wine with just a few pages into the book.

It not only gives a glimpse into the joys and pleasures of starting a life in a foreign country, but also shows the struggles that foreigners encounter; from learning to speak the language, to innocently breaking the rules and getting stares and glares from people, to buying a house, to shopping for furniture, to house repairs that come with buying an old house especially one in the outskirts of the city.

I like how this book features more on the vast countryside where vineyards and wheat farms are alternated with clumps of forest, and wide expanses of sunflowers that give off an intense yellow light collected from the long summer day, instead of the dazzling capital where I’ve already heard tons of stories about.

My favorite scene is when they went to a restaurant and didn’t order an entrée. Here is an excerpt:

“Madame,” he said from across the room, leveling a chef’s knife at Eileen. “You do not come to a fine restaurant and fail to order a starter!” “Monsieur—” she said, pushing back her chair and pulling herself to her full five-foot -two. “You do not speak to a lady in that way. I am the customer. You are the chef. I will eat what I can, and you will prepare it. D’accord? (Agreed?)”

There is just so much girl power in there that makes me want to shout, “You go girl! Don’t let them bullies humiliate you in front of everyone!”

“Beginning French” comes with a glossary attached for French words and phrases used in the story. So if you’re learning French, this can help you with additional vocabulary in your studies. If you’re using a reading app like Kindle, French words are highlighted so the glossary is just a click away.

There are recipes as well if you fancy French cuisine. I mean who doesn’t, right?

Favorite Lines from Les Américains

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 Amèricains meet every summer in France—to cook, write, and share photos and travel tips with their followers.

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Thank you for reading and cheers to more books!