Catherine Berry of But you are in France, Madame and I have a lot in common. We’re both from Adelaide and both love (and have lived in) France. A few years ago, I happened across Catherine over on Instagram (she’s also Our French Village House – another thing we have in common, rental properties in France that we operate from afar!) and downloaded her book, But you are in France, Madame and read it in one sitting. I loved that part of Catherine’s story (because I found out we had even more in common than just Adelaide and a love of France) – you can read my full review here) – and have been eager to get my hands on the follow up story, Weaving a French Life: An Australian story which came out in December.
‘Seven years have passed since Catherine returned to Australia with her family after their French adventure. Has she been able to close that emotional chapter or has turning the page led her straight back to France? Has Catherine’s affection for France grown or has her new beginning in Australia shaken her beliefs and allegiances—where does she belong? As Catherine grapples with questions and doubts about her future and struggles with self-confidence, she delves into the origins of her French connection and, in so doing, is reminded of where she has come from and who she is. ‘Weaving a French Life’ is not a template for French living. Rather, it demonstrates that a life adorned with French threads can be passionate and problematic, sensual and scarring, positive and perplexing … but at its heart, textured and colourful.
Sounds intriguing, right? I guess this spoke to me so loudly because I identify so much with so many of these questions and thoughts. I’ve talked a little bit on the blog before about my “French connection” – somehow (well, a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck), I’ve managed to combine much of what I love to do (French cooking) with something I actually *have* to do (you know, my day job which pays the bills – teaching French and cooking). And when I get to write about that, well it’s everything I love (to do) all rolled into one (that would be In the French kitchen with kids!). In a way, both Catherine and I have “woven our French lives” into our everyday, far away from France, albeit in different countries and very differently but ultimately our “French life” quest is similar.
Keeping a connection to a country you’ve lived in but don’t anymore might not be something you want to do. After all, you don’t live there anymore. But maybe you moved (back home/ elsewhere) because you had to. Maybe it wasn’t by choice. Maybe it was but it was because it made the most sense at the time. There are a lot of reasons why we end up living where we do.
Like me, Catherine found herself “home” wondering what that meant for her affiliation with France. I totally get that because I feel like while I loved France and so much about living there, at the time when I moved to Canada, it wasn’t the place for me to live. Canada was, and still is. As someone who grew up in Australia, lived in France and who now lives in Canada, with a connection to France (that would be our holiday rental), Weaving a French Life struck a chord with me on most every page. Catherine’s quest of “belonging” (and realising you can still belong in one place whilst living in another) is one many expats experience.
Both Catherine’s books tell a realistic tale of living in France, moving back and ultimately finding a compromise (having a house but not living there full time). Not quite the “we sold everything and moved to France and here’s our tale that includes ups and downs and language mishaps but that ends happily ever after” story you might be used to reading (and dreaming about). I like this sort of story best because it’s relatable for those of us who can’t up and leave lives on a whim.
A must read for those who dream of figuring out how to weave a little bit of France into everyday.
Buy Weaving a French Life on Amazon (this link should bring you to the Amazon store geographically closest to you).
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MY BOOK! In the French kitchen with kids is out now! Click here for details and how to order!