Travel Reading: Personal Narratives on Life in France

This is the third in my “Travel Reading” series of posts. For a list of books that deal with French culture and politics in general (and are a great place to start your exploration), check out my post, “Travel Reading: French Culture“. For more information on French Food, look at Travel Reading: Food and Culinary Writings.

Have you ever thought about packing up and moving to France for a year or indefinitely? These books will educate, inspire, and make you realize things about living in France you’ve never thought about before. If you have already “lived the dream” (or are in the process of doing so), these books provide a great point of comparison for your own experiences. Who knows? You might even find bits of your own experience in them.

Almost French: Love And A New Life In Paris

by Sarah Turnbull (2003)

almost-frenchTurnbull chronicles her experiences as a 20-something Australian in France. After temporarily leaving her job with a TV network, she moved to Paris to be with her new lover, Frederic. As many “foreigners” discover, it can be hard to make French friends without a proper understanding of French social norms (regarding the appropriateness of certain subjects of conversation, eating habits, co-ed gatherings, and hobbies). Some of these nuances can be gleaned through research beforehand, but, as Turnbull describes, the learning curve is long and fraught with frustration. Almost French is a well-written love story, and an entertaining read for any of us who have followed our hearts to France, only to find it’s not quite what we expected.

Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home

by Kim Sunée (2009)

trail-of-crumbsTrail of Crumbs is Sunée’s story of “finding herself,” amidst the enviable environments of a Provençal villa and a chic Parisian apartment. The memoir’s highlights include Sunée’s descriptions of an “outsider” looking in on French culture (fascinating) and her descriptions of the lush, colorful Provençal countryside (aptly rendered). Though I don’t quite think this qualifies as “foodie lit” (the food takes a backseat to Sunée’s psychological woes), there are some wonderful descriptions of international kitchens, meals and shopping at the world-famous Provençal markets. Moreover, this is an interesting read for anyone who is a fan of the L’Occitane product line. L’Occitane’s founder, Olivier Baussan, was Sunée’s lover during her time in France and her descriptions of his lifestyle (and their relationship) are well-written and engaging.

My French Life

by Vicki Archer (2007)

my-french-lifeAnother memoir from a talented Australian, My French Life is the story of adopting (and completely restoring) a new home halfway around the world. In 1999, Archer and family purchased a seventeenth-century property in charming Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.  Together, they renovated the old farmhouse, reinvigorating abandoned apple and pear orchards, and planting a robust olive grove. A joyous narrative, My French Life will leave you feeling like anything’s possible. Oh yes, and I’m a fan of the lovely photo section. My French Life would make a lovely gift for anyone interested in French culture.

All of these books are available on

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