I love France #41: Book review: French Illusions

I LOVE FRANCE!

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French Illusions:

My Story as an American

Au Pair in the Loire Valley

by

Linda KOVIC-SKOW

272 pages

Published by  Dog Ear Publishing in October 2012

French Illusions

Ebook purchased

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

     Books on France 2013 Ebook Challenge

European RC 2013 New Authors 2013

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

Rating system

During your next trip, be sure to journal. Who knows, you may get enough material to turn it into a book eventually. This is exactly what Linda did when she went to France as an au pair. French Illusions recounts this experience.

Linda’s dream was to become an air attendant, but for that, she needed to be fluent in French. To achieve that goal, what best than full immersion? One day, she saw an ad for an au pair in the Loire Valley. Good food, possible castle life? That will do! There was a slight problem though: the au pair was supposed to already master the French language. Linda decided to pretend she could already manage well in French; she applied, and was hired. She bet on the fact that these nice French people would of course not put her back on the next train when they discovered she had deceived them; she would only need to explain her legitimate ultimate goal, no big deal.

Well, almost castle life she got, and yes, they did not sent her back to the US, but life got really tough, with a very demanding and basically mean employer; with hardly any time to really learn the language; with even hard conditions, such as a very cold room.

Making a few friends helped her a bit, but also introduced extra complications in her daily life, until a dramatic turn of events. You will have to read the book to know what happened.

What I really liked in this book is how it debunked the myth of France as a really cool place to be, with great food and people. France has its share of mean people not opened to foreigners, and bossing others around, as in any country. It can be actually quite challenging to try to blend in.

As Linda is trying to learn the language, she inserts in her book lots of French sentences followed by their English translation. This bothered a bit my reading, but only because I did not need the translation. I assume an American reader not too familiar with French would actually appreciate this feature.

A few little things surprised me; for instance this kid in Prépa who did not know English. I went through Prépa myself (very intense years to prepare for a very tough school – top top Ivy League level I would say), and we all needed to be fluent in at least 2 foreign languages, English being the most common. Linda also goes to some parties, with young people in their 20s not familiar with English. This is really unusual.

I also noticed that in the Loire region, they seem to eat les gougères, fantastic cheese puffs (salty, not the sweet kind with cream in them) as desserts. Strange; in Champagne and Burgundy, where they are from and where I lived, it’s an appetizer. In fact, we were served gougères as appetizer when we went to a restaurant in Troyes, Champagne, last Spring.
Incidentally, my sister recently sent me a super easy recipe of les gougères, and I plan to post it here in English. So come back soon!

I hope French Illusions will have a sequel, on how Linda fared in France in the second step of her stay. It could be really interesting to read about her adaptation as she gets more familiar with the language and the culture.

If you are ready to quit romantic ideas about France and discover an eye-opening experience, then this book is definitely for you.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

“This is a wonderful debut memoir, made much more appealing because it is true. A well written, fast-paced book enhanced by sprinkles of French.”In the summer of 1979, twenty-one-year-old Linda Kovic contracts to become an au pair for an wealthy French family in the Loire Valley. To secure the position, she pretends to speak the language, fully aware her deception will be discovered once she arrives at her destination. Based on the author’s diary, French Illusions captures Linda’s fascinating real-life story inside and outside the Château de Montclair. The over-bearing, Madame Dubois, her accommodating husband, Monsieur Dubois, and their two children are highlighted as Linda struggles to adapt to her new environment. Continually battling the language barrier, she signs up and attends classes at the local university in the nearby town of Tours, broadening her range of experiences. When she encounters Adam, a handsome young student, her life with the Dubois family becomes more complicated, adding fuel to her internal battle for independence. [Goodreads]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linda Kovic-Skow

 Linda Kovic-Skow resides in Kirkland, Washington. She earned an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting in 1978 from North Seattle Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Seattle University in 1985. She has been married for 27 years and has two daughters. An enthusiastic traveler, Linda also enjoys boating, gardening and socializing with friends. French Illusions, her debut memoir, is the culmination of a three-year project.

Website:
Twitter username:
@lindakovicskow

REVIEWS BY OTHER BLOGGERS

An Accidental Blog
Goodreads

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK?
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MEMOIR ON FRANCE?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS  IN A COMMENT PLEASE

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13 thoughts on “I love France #41: Book review: French Illusions

  1. Pingback: 2013 – Books on France challenge – My list « Words And Peace

  2. Pingback: 2013 Ebook Reading Challenge « Words And Peace

  3. Pingback: New Authors Reading Challenge 2013 « Words And Peace

  4. Pingback: 2013: January wrap-up « Words And Peace

  5. Emma, I had a lot of the same thoughts about this book, which I found because you added it on Goodreads. (Thanks!) Funny that the English after the French slowed you down. I was just reading a book set in Italy and the author included Italian quotes without translating. Since I don’t speak Italian, that really bugged me. Even though Linda had a tough time, I was jealous of her days off in France. When I was an au pair, I didn’t get paid and had no days off. Maybe the students didn’t know English because it took place before your time — she went in 1979 so maybe the school wasn’t as rigorous as when you went. (I’m assuming you’re younger!) Thanks for the review.

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    • Thanks for sharing. I know it’s a different genre, but I actually preferred your own book, honestly. I was born in 1966; most kids of my generation chose English as their first foreign language. All students had to pick one foreign language at age 10 or 11. Wow, you were not even paid when au pair!! Those French, de vrais Harpagons, lol!

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  6. Pingback: European Reading Challenge 2013 « Words And Peace

  7. I’m hopping through the Books on France challenge books. Fun to read this right after reading Paulita’s take on it!

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  8. This doesn’t sound like the typical ex-pat memoir, but it does sound interesting.

    Sorry it has taken me forever to get around to reading all the reviews posted on the European Reading Challenge page. Thanks for taking part in the challenge again this year. It looks like you are already finished! I must get a page up for Wrap Up posts.

    Rose City Reader

    Like

    • no problem, yes I’m already 1 book over the max, but will keep adding to them anyway. There are 5 other European countries I would like to cover this year, in combination with my 52 countries

      Like

  9. Pingback: I love France #56: Book review: Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down | Words And Peace

  10. Pingback: Book review: French Illusions: From Tours to Paris – I love France #170 | Words And Peace

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