Friday, June 3, 2011

French Lessons by Ellen Sussman

Over the course of one beautiful Parisian day three Americans will each spend the day with a private French tutor. Each is trying to get away from something--an event, an intolerable situation, a rut--and each is trying to make their way to something better.

Josie, a high school French teacher, is running from a broken heart; her married lover was killed in a plane crash just days before they were due to board the plane to Paris together. Her day of French tutoring, spent with the sensitive Nico, is ostensibly a chance to perfect her accent. Actually, it's an effort to get herself out of the hotel room she's been holed up in for the last week. 

Riley is an ex-pat, married to a husband who works long and late, stuck at home with an infant and a toddler (who speaks the language of their adopted home better than she does). She has a standing weekly lesson, with Philippe, a yummy tutor who seems worldly and sophisticated in that oh, so French fashion. 

And Jeremy, a woodworker by trade and a homebody at heart, is on location with his wife, a famous actress. His lessons, with the lovely Chantal, are a gift from Jeremy's wife ("I bought my husband a beautiful French girl for our anniversary," the actress tells their dinner companions one evening).

Although French Lessons comes in at just over two hundred pages, the three stories unfold at a leisurely pace, visiting the pasts of each of the six characters, dwelling lovingly on the present day, speculating about the future. While the individual stories can't be said to be wrapped up neatly, still, each our three Americans (and at least two of the three tutors) gains insight into their lives and a clearer picture of where they're going. The sights and sounds, smells and tastes are wonderfully evoked and guaranteed to make you long for your own trip to Paris.  Perhaps the six characters are too beautiful to be believed, but I, for one, was perfectly happy to suspend my disbelief and revel in that beauty. French Lessons is a perfectly lovely novel, sure to be a hit with both the beach crowd and the book clubs.

Disclosure: In accordance with new FTC guidelines for bloggers I must let you know that I received a free review copy of this title.  My reviews are just that: reviews.  They are not endorsements, nor am I ever compensated for posting my opinion. 


Tiny Library said...

This one sounds like a great summer read. It's gone on my wishlist :)

Tina said...

I got a copy of this last week...unfortunately, it got delivered while I was gone for the weekend, and was drenched through--thank goodness it was a paperback ARC. I told me husband it was going to be a soak in the tub book, and now I can't wait to fill up those bubbles and sink in.