Welcome to Summer Reads 2017 where I’ll be reviewing a series of “not just cookbooks”.
Catherine Berry and I have a lot in common. We’re both from Adelaide and both have an unwavering love of France, despite how maddeningly frustrating life there can sometimes be. I happened across Catherine over on Instagram at the beginning of the summer (she’s also Le Cormoran-Talloires – another thing we have in common, rental properties in France that we operate from far away!) and downloaded her book, But you are in France, Madame because I never can resist stories of expats in other countries.
The title was an immediate draw for me because having lived in France myself and owning a house there, I know firsthand that there are SO many situations where the only answer to why something is happening (good or bad) is, #becauseFrance 😉 I was also attracted to the story of Catherine and her family’s move to France because, unlike many “We left our lives behind and moved to France” stories, theirs is a little more conservative (although in the big scheme of things they took a lot of risks) – their move was more realistic and do-able than many. Catherine had fallen in love with France as a young teacher on an exchange program and always dreamed of going back. But with three children and a husband with a job in Australia, moving there outright didn’t seem like a realistic option.
Instead Catherine and her husband gave themselves a year to begin with and set about organising all the paperwork involved with that (getting their European passports being the most important). And so they left Melbourne to begin a new life in the region around Annecy, renting a few different properties before ending up in the small village of Menthon-Saint-Bernard. Renting long-term lets meant that the family was often packing their bags during traditional holiday periods but instead of viewing this as an inconvenience, they took it as an opportunity to discover different parts of France and neighbouring Italy too. Once in Menthon, the family settles into French life (albeit with a father/ husband dividing his time between Australia and France) and all that entails – charming markets, fabulous food, spectacular scenery mixed with the “train-train” of the everyday – school, homework, the dreaded French bureaucracy – and the occasional bouts of loneliness that living thousands of miles away from your native country can bring.
Catherine is an evocative writer and paints a picture with her words which will whisk you away to her life in France as you read each chapter. But perhaps even more than Catherine’s way with words, what I loved about this book was the family’s utter respect for the French (language, culture, people) and their surroundings. Instead of complaining about the mind-numbing pace at which things sometimes move, the quirks of #lifeinFrance and the frustrations that go along with all that, Catherine and her family seek to integrate fully into life in their new home, questioning things, for sure, but mostly wanting to make sure they are doing the right thing, even if sometimes (often) life in France is difficult. As Catherine says, despite the tongue-in-cheek nature of some of the stories she shares, the family really did love everything about their life in France. The book is also just as much an exploration of French culture (with a bit of history thrown in for good measure) as it is a story of an expat family living in the French alps.
The family’s one year in France turned into several and But you are in France, Madame was originally a blog where Catherine shared stories about their experience (originally under the title Conversations from France). Returning to Australia, Catherine continued to write; for her it made the difficult transition to their “old” life easier and helped preserve the memories of their special few years of French life. But you are in France, Madame was the result. Nowadays, Catherine and her husband own a property in the French alps that they operate as a rental (see below) so, like us, they have one foot in France at all times, so to speak.
If you’re an armchair traveller, if you have a love of all things French, wonder “How could *I* move to France, even just for a little while?” or if you’re just happy to experience life in France through someone else’s eyes, But you are in France, Madame is a book you simply must read. An excellent summertime (or anytime) read – you won’t be able to put it down (I read it from start to finish in one bus ride and and afternoon!)
Buy But you are in France, Madame on Amazon (this link should bring you to the Amazon store in, or closest to, your country)
Please note: This post contains product links from Amazon which are affiliate links, meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you) which goes towards maintaining eat. live. travel. write. Thank you in advance!
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