Are We French Yet?
Keith & Val’s Adventures In Provence
by Keith Van Sickle
Release date: December 15, 2018
at Dresher Publishing
Keith and Val started telling about their unusual experience in One Sip at a Time: after some time spent in Switzerland, they discovered how much they like life in Europe. They decided then to split their time every year between California and Provence. Are We French Yet? features their most recent trips.
This time, the author relates his experience through 34 vignettes. It’s neat to see how, through multiple months spent in Provence, and much effort to learn the language, he and his wife get a better understanding of the culture and develop deep friendship with several of their acquaintances. For me, that’s the ultimate goal of genuine globalization.
What I really like about Keith’s books is that his humor (some passages are totally hilarious) is totally a propos and on target, for instance on the language, on strikes and demonstrations, on paper work, and French scarves!
There are obviously, how could there not be, delicious passages on food and wine. The author also highlights some unique French traditional traits, that are alas slowly disappearing, such as the world and ambiance of small local butcher’s shops and the like.
French have the reputation to always being very critical. I don’t remember actually if Keith features this in his book, but as I’m French, I do feel the need to mention a few things I disagreed with:
- “They don’t’ have Yellow Pages here”, page 6. Actually yes, the French do have white and yellow pages, they are just of course called Les Pages blanches and Les Pages jaunes. I believed they started in 1998. When I was a child, we had them in big telephone books, but as you see, they even exist on line now, just like in the US.
- The members of the Académie française “are so revered they’re called Immortels”, page 31. That’s not the reason. They are called Immortels because of the motto present on the seal given to them by their founder in 1634-1635, Cardinal Richelieu. The motto says, To Immortality!
Another reason is that you are appointed a member of the Académie for life. So the number of members is always the same. They are always 40. A new member is elected when one of them dies, and his/her seat needs to be occupied by a new member.
Recently, no less than 13 candidates were vying for the place freed by Michel Déon’s death. And no one got enough vote, so the seat is still vacant. It’s the second or third time they hold an election to try to fill in that seat!
- On page 96, the author wonders, “has anyone ever actually read all seven volumes of Proust’s masterwork? I think non”.
Eh bien si ! And I personally did. I read the very first volume decades ago. Then in 2013, at the occasion of the one hundred anniversary publication of the first volume, a Goodreads group decided to read all 7 volumes, with chapters assigned per week (great for a read-along). I joined them (a fairly large group), but I couldn’t keep up with the pace. I finished the 7th book in April 2016. It was an amazing experience. Some books were harder than others, I remember especially boring scenes in volume 3, but the last volume is so beautiful, I’m glad I persevered.
And I have a friend in France who has been reading the whole thing at least 5 times: when she’s done, she starts all over again. I can understand the benefit of doing this, as the work is so rich, you definitely need several readings to see all the connections between the various volumes.
- On page 115, he talks about his classes on “the subjonctif tense”, and goes on saying, “This is a hard one, because there’s no equivalent in English”. Sorry, but the subjunctive is not a tense (even good old wikipedia will tell you that), as it has nothing to so about past/present/future. It is rather a grammatical mood, by which you convey an attitude or opinion to what you are saying.
And there IS an equivalent in English, even though I’ll admit there are just a few remnants of it in modern English. But if you speak proper English, you will say, “If I were you, I would read this book”. Perfect example showing that were is has nothing to do with the past tense, in which case it would be was. This conveys the idea that actually, it’s impossible for me to be completely you.
Another example could be, “I suggest that you be careful”. We see the more common indicative mood is not used here, otherwise it would be you are. Here, the use of the subjunctive conveys this is just a suggestion, and I don’t know if you will follow my advice and do what I say. So your being careful may or may not happen. For this reason, when I teach the subjunctive, I call it the mood of virtuality.
- Finally on page 182, the author highlights a special meaning of brave in Provence. As I knew of that meaning both in Champagne and Burgundy regions, where I lived, I double checked in the Larousse French dictionary. Both meanings are listed, and not as something regional.
These points are anyway very incidental and did not lessen my appreciation of Are We French Yet?
The couple’s experience, enriched through the contact of two cultures, has changed their perspectives and attitudes. I’m curious to see where this life adventure will eventually lead them.
VERDICT: Nice collections of funny and culturally aware vignettes highlighting how life can be enriched by being familiar with two cultures.
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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines, I received this book free of charge from the author. I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Keith Van Sickle
is the author of the Amazon best-seller
One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence.
A lifelong traveler who got his first taste of overseas life
as a university student in England,
Keith later backpacked around the world on his own.
But it was the expat assignment to Switzerland
that made him fall in love with Europe.
With his wife Val and their trusty dog Mica,
he now splits his time between California and Provence,
delving ever deeper into what makes France so endlessly fascinating.
Subscribe to his mailing list and get information about new releases.
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