Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: First French Essais: Venturing into Writing, Marriage, & France

American Kristin Espinasse has compiled 28 pleasant essays about her life in France after she met and married a French man. The book grew out of her French Word-A-Day blog. As with each blog post, she includes a few French words and definitions in each chapter, as well as interesting photos. Essays touch on quaint customs, colorful observations, small human dramas, family anecdotes. Reading this book feels like strolling through gently rolling French countryside, finding a grassy spot for your blue-and-white-checked picnic cloth, and resting against your wicker picnic basket all afternoon to gaze quietly over farms and villages as little everyday French scenes play out before you.

I have subscribed to and enjoyed Kristin’s blog for several years. As an American, I like discovering differences in French culture (like doggy bags and parking meters) along with Kristin. I like learning handy French words and expressions (like la bagnole for car) that often don’t show up in textbooks or even dictionaries. I believe First French Essais has more vocabulary than the blog, and I like that. In the book, for some odd reason, Kristin teaches that la belle-mère means the mother-in-law at least three times. After the first mention, she could have used the space on her vocabulary blackboard graphics for fresh words.

And I would say that for the book’s language lessons to stick, a reader would have to already have some foundational grammar pegs to hang the new expressions on. Even if a reader did not pick up a single new French word, however, First French Essais: Venturing into Writing, Marriage, & France is an enjoyable read. The simple stories are charmingly well-told, and you can identify with the emotions of the people in the stories. Two bonuses at the end: a hidden-word puzzle and a dual-language story of how Monsieur Farjon, “the plant man,” ended up on the book’s cover. I enjoy Kristin’s openness to cross-cultural experiences and her candor about both failures and successes.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

Thank you very much, Jane, for this helpful review. Much appreciated!