Monday, February 12, 2018

Eight Months in Provence ~ my review

I can certainly identify with Diane Covington-Carter’s yearning to live in France. I can’t quite identify with her actually doing it. Maybe I should reread Eight Months in Provence: A Junior Year Abroad 30 Years Late as many times as it takes to muster the courage to pack my passport.

Not that this enjoyable memoir is a how-to book; but if a reader needs a little encouragement, she might find it here. The author simply tells the story of her fulfilling a decades-long dream to live in France. Life events had prevented her studying in France for her junior year of college. But at age fifty, she goes to Aix-en-Provence, a town she had once enjoyed on a vacation, to live for eight months. Her story is made up of many small, mundane realities like finding an adapter for her computer and equipping her rented kitchen with a vegetable peeler. Reading about her commonplace challenges and even mishaps encourages me to not worry about such problems, should I go to live in France for a time. That Covington-Carter’s problems work out, even without French fluency on her part, reassures me.
I especially like the relational stories in this memoir—new French friendships as well as old family friends in Normandy and visits from the author’s mother and sister. I like that for love of France, Covington-Carter voluntarily puts herself in this culture-shock immersion situation. For example, she observes French conventions by being quieter in public and restraining her urge to hug people. She navigates customs surrounding addressing people more or less formally.
Most of all, I appreciate Covington-Carter’s honesty about her doubts along the way. Her time in France is a series of epiphanies bolstering her courage and confidence. Repeatedly when she realizes a mistake, she quiets the knee-jerk self-criticism with a little mantra, “Croyez-en-soi,” Believe in yourself.
Eight Months in Provence: A Junior Year Abroad 30 Years Late is peppered with French words. I would have liked way more. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about daily realities of a dream of living in France.

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