Thursday, November 26, 2015

Book review of Pardon My French by Allen Johnson

French Village Diaries book review Pardon My French Allen Johnson
Pardon My French
My review today is for Pardon My French: How a Grumpy American Fell in Love with France  a memoir of time spent in the south of France by Allen Johnson.

I was hooked from the beginning of this book when we are thrust straight into summer in France during the early seventies, with a naked lady by a pool and a rather nervous narrator. Allen certainly made me believe he had a story to tell about his time in France with his wife Nita, where living among the French was as important to them as being in France. We first meet the newlyweds during their year in Grenoble, but this is just part of the story as Allen and Nita return thirty-one years later to spend another year in the country they have fallen in love with.

I’ve read plenty of life in France memoirs but I’m sure I’ve not yet come across anyone else who has made such an effort to throw himself into a social life in France, especially someone who knows he is only here for a year, chapeau Allen. As well as spending time with their long standing French friends, Allen joins enough local groups to give him at least one activity every day of the week, including a hiking group, a basketball club, dance lessons and music lessons. Some were more successful than others, but each time he gave his all and tried his best to make friends with the French. The goings on at activities also gave him ample material to entertain the reader with.

Immersing themselves as they did in France and the French way, it is no surprise that food and big French meals get quite a bit of coverage, especially during the Christmas they spent in France. It is also true that the French way with food is rather different to the American way and I just loved this quote from the book, which I think sums the French way up perfectly:
“The French don’t eat, they dine. They don’t lunge at food, they savor it.”

I enjoyed Allen’s eye for detail and witty writing style that made this an entertaining read. Sometimes I found he was getting a little bit grumpy about some of his experiences in France, but just as I was beginning to feel it was too grumpy he pulled it back and showed he wasn’t really moaning, it was just his humorous way of expelling the inevitable frustration that can arise when dealing with certain aspects of life in France. I was able to sympathize with him here, as I’m sure anyone who has ever lived in France will do too. The end of the book includes a handy section of practical advice and information for those looking to follow in Allen and Nita’s footsteps.

Pardon My French: How a Grumpy American Fell in Love with France is published by Yucca Publishing and is available in paperback and ebook format and links to Amazon can be found below.