Tuesday, October 24, 2017

French Impressions - John S. Littell

French Impressions
Title: French Impressions: The Adventures of an American Family 
Author: John S. Littell
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: One of my best friends gifted it to me.
Date Completed: 10/7/17

Summary: An American couple with two young boys decide to spend a year in France. Cultural hijinks ensue.

What I Thought: It has taken me way too long to read this book. One of my very best friends gave it to me for my birthday...last year. Like two birthdays ago. She knows me well as this book falls solidly in the niche genre of expats in France, which I love. I don't know why it took me so long to read, but I finally did. It proved the perfect book to grab as I headed out for some time in my hammock chair this summer and fall. 

This is just a fun book. I cannot imagine picking up a family with two small kids and heading off to another country. Particularly not in 1950. Littell's work is actually a compilation of his mother's journals from the time, as he was only four when the family lived in Marseilles. Mary Littell was clearly a woman who was always getting into various scrapes. She reminded me a bit of Lucy Ricardo in that regard. It seemed something was always happening to her that likely would not to other people. 

Some of my favorite anecdotes included the swan she made for Thanksgiving dinner, the time she misunderstood cidre and was continually getting her baby son drunk in the afternoons, and her desperate search to find store-bought mayonnaise. The book is humorous, although you get the distinct impressions that these stories were not so fun for Mary at the time. Most of the book is definitely a "it's funny in retrospect" type of thing. 

It was continually interesting to me, too, how the Littells faced marriage and parenting. 1950 was just another world in that regard. They leave their two small boys in another hotel room multiple times with no supervision whatsoever, presuming them to be asleep. They also have a very traditional marriage dynamic with Mary being largely subservient to her husband's whims. He definitely was not my favorite person in the book. While he seems quite jovial and charming, he definitely was not always thinking of his family. Rather, the whole endeavor is really a way for him to live out a dream of his youth. He's lucky he had such an amiable wife. 

It's a fun read and worth your time if you want to be impressed in 50s French culture or just to read about a family trying to do life abroad without any of our modern conveniences. Thanks, Clara, for sending it my way!

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Possibly

A Reduced Review: A fun look into an American family's cultural adventures in postwar France.

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