REVIEW: Beginning French, Marty Neumeier

I have been wanting to read more travel writing for a while and when the opportunity to review a book about moving to France came up I wa sreally excited to read it. Beginning French tells the true story of Marty and Eileen buying a house in France, an old house in the country that needs more than a little work. Marty narrates the story and details the culture clash of being Americans in France, referring to himself, his wife and daughter as les Americans throughout.

The book begins well with the charm of a family holiday, of discovering a new place, cuisine and language. The search for the house is described comedically and the discoveries of beautiful villages and local delicacies made me crave my childhood holidays in France. The story of their first few summers in their new house in France is well told, the festivals and meals and friends are described well and I could see these places – the dancing and the food.

However, by about half way through I was somewhat bored. There was no real narrative. Problems with the house were tentatively used to create the necessary drama to keep a reader reading. However the story telling became repetitive and somewhat cliched. As did Marty’s repeated references to money and their apparent lack, refuting any hint the reader might get that he and his wife are wealthy. This became tiresome after the first few chapters. To have a second home in a different country you are privileged, in trying to argue that you aren’t, it just detracta from the likeability and readibiltiy of the book and it’s rich descriptions of French life.

I did enjoy the retelling of village life, such as the importance of boules and the interesting characters that lived nearby. The quirkiness of food shopping, electrical and dinner parties also make for very pleasant reading.

Then comes a funny flirtation, or non flirtation with a French girl and his wife runs of to Paris with their pet pig to rest in a posh hotel (but no wealth here!) Marty struggles with the pressure of chores and figuring out what he’s done wrong and I just felt disappointed. This was not what I wanted from a travel book.

Everything was sorted out by the end, but the epilogue continues the theme of wealth and money. Pages of discussion about how they’re not wealthy, but rich in experience. Cliche after cliche. Nothing sentences that I skim read because it had all been said in previous chapters. 

It is a shame that a book with such promise is railroaded by marital issues that appear to be nearly fictitious narrative tools to try and maintain interest, along with continued discussions of the pairs wealth or non wealth, which are completely out of place in my opinion.

The book starts as a really good read which would work better as a long piece in a travel magazine. I feel like by the end the writer had run out of things to say and could no longer list items of French food. Of course this is just my view. It is a highly descriptive read, but it falls flat in the final half. A frustrating read overall.

If you have any recommendations for good travel writing, please let me know in the comments!!
Thank you to netgalley for allowing me to access this ebook as a reviewer.

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