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French Lessons by Ellen Sussman

French Lessons

by Ellen Sussman

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1942760,720 (3.22)5



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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway (my first) in ARC format. The bio about the author says that she's a Stanford professor in creative writing, which made sense after I finished the book.

Sussman has a beautiful way of painting a character portrait with a few brush strokes, powerful imagery and sensory details. She invokes a great deal of emotion in three short stories, then ties them together at the end. Her writing was impressive, but the characters were not very likable.

Each of the short stories focuses on extramarital affairs from different angles: the long-term mistress, the one-time fling, and the gosh-I'd-really-like-to fantasy of one character. While the intense stream-of-consciousness of each character was intriguing, the subject matter was distasteful to me, so the reading was less enjoyable. ( )
  CyndiTefft | Feb 6, 2014 |
A story set in Paris looking at the nature of love. A light read. Three French language tutors take their students around Paris for a days lesson. Each of the students is trying to get away from something and find their way through it.. ( )
  kiwifortyniner | Nov 30, 2012 |
Full review on Reader's Dialogue: http://readersdialogue.blogspot.com/2012/09/french-lessons.html

French Lessons is ultimately a hopeful book with a positive message about love, but for the majority of the book, hopelessness and despair drenches the pages. And I love how that's achieved - short, terse sentences, dialogue with very few taglines, quick repartee among the characters. It draws you in, especially Josie and Riley's stories, until their grief and wild desperation seep right into you and fill you up.

I love how time is used in the book, how the characters move back and forth between the day that is the present and their memories of what's happened up until then to bring them to the state they're in at this point. The seamless interweaving works beautifully to transcend time and make their experiences timeless. Josie's story also works really well because her grief is portrayed through that cutting back and forth, in the way a grieving person would really remember things in fits and spurts throughout the day. ( )
  EstherShaindel | Sep 6, 2012 |
fast read. typical american view of france and french people. why do american think that all frech people think about is sex? it just shows a shallow view of paris and is just another quick summer read. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Jul 17, 2012 |
This is a Reading Good Books review.

Paris. The city of sex. The city of clandestine affairs. Basically, this whole book has “clandestine affairs” as a common theme. And Paris.

The book is about three Americans in Paris and their respective French tutors. They are in Paris for different reasons. And all of them are looking to find themselves in the alluring and romantic city of lights. It starts with Josie and her charming teacher Nico, looking to heal a broken heart. Nico helps her find that closure and at the same time, Josie helps him realize his true love. Riley, an expat’s wife, and her tutor Philippe go into a risky relationship with themselves and each other. And finally, Jeremy’s last day with his teacher Chantal finds the student imparting more lessons to the teacher than the other way around.

It is like a collection of three short stories. The book itself is fairly short, less than 300 pages so it’s an easy read. The stories are very well-crafted and fast paced. It was candid and light. For me, the French characters are more likable than the American ones. All of them are, in some way, tragic and they felt raw. Philippe and Josie, mostly. Some situations were slightly unrealistic but the writing is poetic and beautiful. And a little bit racy. The three couples end up in the same place and that’s the one thing that I didn’t really get.

Paris is such a great backdrop to the story. It’s like a love letter to Paris. I picture it like I was looking through a dreamy haze. I’ve always wanted to visit Paris, to see for myself why a lot of people dream of going there. From all the books that I’ve read about it, it’s seems like a whole new world. Also, I think the French language is romantic. Maybe I’ll get my own French lessons while I’m there.

In the novel, Chantal says, “But sometimes we have to run away from ourselves in order to find ourselves”. I think this is the whole book in a nutshell. And it also rings true for a lot of people. Soul-searching is pretty much getting away from life as we know it to find our true selves. Josie, Riley, and Jeremy managed to find theirs in Paris.

Rating: 4/5.

Recommendation: A light romantic story if you want to be swept off to Paris, even in dreams. ( )
  chaostheory08 | Feb 4, 2012 |
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For Gillian and Sophie, my Parisian girls, and for Neal, mon amour.
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Brilliant sunlight spills through the windows of the Vivre a la Francaise language school.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A single day in Paris changes the lives of three Americans as they each set off to explore the city with a French tutor, learning about language, love, and loss as their lives intersect in surprising ways.

Josie, Riley, and Jeremy have come to the City of Light for different reasons: Josie, a young high school teacher, arrives in hopes of healing a broken heart. Riley, a spirited but lonely expat housewife, struggles to feel connected to her husband and her new country. And Jeremy, the reserved husband of a renowned actress, is accompanying his wife on a film shoot, yet he feels distant from her world.

As they meet with their tutors—Josie with Nico, a sensitive poet; Riley with Phillippe, a shameless flirt; and Jeremy with the consummately beautiful Chantal—each succumbs to unexpected passion and unpredictable adventures. Yet as they traverse Paris’s grand boulevards and intimate, winding streets, they uncover surprising secrets about one another—and come to understand long-buried truths about themselves.
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A single day in Paris changes the lives of three Americans as they each set off to explore the city with a French tutor, learning about language, love, and loss as their lives intersect in surprising ways.

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