What starts as a lark—an adult-education class in beginning French—becomes a life-changing adventure for two Americans, Eileen and Marty. They end up buying a “completely restored” 400-year-old farmhouse in the Dordogne, with a sparkling pool, a beautiful barn, and a massive Godin stove for their chef-daughter Sara.
Yet the road to hell (and Perigord) is paved with good intentions. They soon find that their dream house has it in for them. The boiler explodes, destroying their newly decorated interior. The electricity goes on the fritz, the wildlife tries to move in with them, and the pool turns a deadly shade of gray. Then along comes Jacqueline, a young French woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Marion Cotillard. Spoiler alert: things get worse fast.
Unlike other memoirs in the “buy-a-house-in-France” genre, Beginning French doesn’t cast the local inhabitants as quaint, wily, or inscrutable. The village boules players and a pair of English neighbors teach les Américains a number of “French lessons” they never learned in language class—some funny, some profound. They discover that “money isn’t wealth—it’s only potential wealth,” and that “some dreams turn out to be the meaning of your life.” Along the way, they share mouth-watering descriptions of food and a dozen recipes from their talented daughter. Be sure to have a glass of rosé, a baguette, and some goat cheese handy while you read this enchanting story. Eileen, Marty, and Sara will win your heart with their humor, self-deprecation, and bravery in battle. Move over Peter Mayle, the Americans have landed!
*STARRED REVIEW* A California couple realize their ambition of owning a house in rural France in this debut memoir by Les Américains. The transition was not without calamity, and when the boiler malfunctioned, flooding the house with water and ruining the majority of their possessions, the two grasped that striving for a new life abroad can come with a price. Living in France offers many rewards, and the couple’s triumphs in learning the language and assimilating into a new culture are a joy to discover. The gorgeous landscapes provide an ever-present backdrop, captured in bursts of warm, descriptive prose: “As we drove, the landscape changed from rolling hills and vineyards to forests and rocky outcrops. Golden cliffs curved out over the road, undercut by the carving action of long-ago rivers.” The duo displays a gastronomic fascination with French cuisine, and the text delivers mouthwatering recipes, such as an indulgent goat cheese soufflé and a scrumptious lemon cheesecake. Thoughtfully written, understated, and without pretension, this book should appeal to Francophiles and epicureans alike. It also pays testament to the single-mindedness, bravery, and unfaltering desire of two particularly likable “Américains” who set out to fulfill a dream. A delightfully evocative farmhouse tale; as satisfying as a summer evening on a French terrace, with a cool glass of rosé in hand.
The new indie book by Les Américains has attracted 50 five-star reviews on Amazon in its first three months. Readers left comments including "enchanting story," "likeable characters," and "delicious recipes."
Kirkus has chosen Beginning French by Les Américains as one of five Indie Books of the Month for September 2016.
Les Américains released a deluxe softcover edition of Beginning French on September 15, 2016. The new version is now available on Amazon in the US and Canada.