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Formats
Kindle Edition eBooks Details
  • 06/2016
  • 978-0-9974102-1-1 B01E89DRKS
  • 256 pages
  • $7.99
Beginning French: Lessons from a Stone Farmhouse

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

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.
Reviews
Under a shared pseudonym, Californians Eileen McKenna and Marty Neumeier regale readers with the tale of their purchase of a 400-year-old “completely restored” farmhouse in France’s Aquitaine region, the challenges they faced to their lengthy marriage, and the gourmet meals they indulged in. Studded with recipes for duck burgers, sangria, and more, the book chronicles multiple disasters in their long-distance homeownership of le Rêve (the Dream): a boiler flooded the house, appliances overloaded the electrical system, and the ceiling threatened to collapse. However, those ordeals are resolved too handily, defusing the tension, and the only real threat to their long-term happiness arises a stone’s throw from the end of the tale. Neumeier, the author of several books on branding and creativity, waxes elegiac about countryside and cuisine with the practiced joviality of a salesman. Though some of his banter charms (such as labeling the purchase of a kitchen table straight out from under the broker’s family dinner as “a steal”), his narration is marked by paternalism, even when he believes he’s being generous (“Mark my words,” he says of his wife after she agrees on an issue, “women will one day rule the world”). To his credit, he seems aware of this tendency, interpreting one of McKenna’s glances as a warning not to “give [her] that marketing hoohah.” Minimal reflection and scant backstory make the book less memoir than brochure, but Francophiles and foodies will find plenty to feast on. (BookLife)
France Today

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!

Kirkus

*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.

 

News
09/01/2016
Beginning French hits 50 five-star reviews

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." 

 

09/12/2016
Indie Book of the Month

Kirkus has chosen Beginning French by Les Américains as one of five Indie Books of the Month for September 2016.

09/15/2016
Softcover edition released

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.

Formats
Kindle Edition eBooks Details
  • 06/2016
  • 978-0-9974102-1-1 B01E89DRKS
  • 256 pages
  • $7.99

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