Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: When in French

I read this book as part of a series of books that I’m reading at the moment on American expatriates who lived or currently live in France. I’m anticipating moving to France in a year or so and am currently trying to learn French as well as learn all that I can about the experiences of Americans in France. When I started to research the American expat experience, I turned to several well-known travel bloggers and collected book recommendations about it.

While Collins’ book is not actually about living in France, it details her journey to learn French, the primary language of her husband. The book itself is more of a meditation on language than it is a memoir. Collins delves into the intricacies of languages around the world, but also spends a large portion of the book reflecting on how language colors her own experience. By the end of the book, she finally feels empowered in her communication with her husband and is ready to start the new chapter of her life in Europe.

I would say that this book was good but the linguistic element did lose me at certain points. It’s rare that I put a book down once I begin and I found myself doing this multiple times while reading this book because I felt that I was not comprehending the content and that I needed a break. I found it to be more of a linguistic exploration rather than a memoir and would encourage those particularly interested in the history and development of language to read this. Because Collins lived in Switzerland rather than France, I felt that her living experience was not as relevant to my research. However, I really appreciated the time that she took to reflect upon the intricacies of the French language and will continue to reference her experience as I continue to learn the language myself.

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