French Lessons is a delightful novel centered around three Americans who find themselves in Paris. The book takes place over the course of one day. Each of these Americans spends that day with his or her French tutor, strolling the streets around la Seine.
Josie is a heartbroken French teacher from the Bay Area; Riley is an American housewife and mother of three; and Jeremy is the down-to-earth husband of an American movie star.
The tutors–two men and a woman–struggle with their own love lives, as do their students. When they meet for their lessons, they learn a great deal about each other and themselves.
I love how Ellen Sussman so effortlessly weaves in the backstory of her characters. So while the story takes place over the course of one day, the novel delves into the histories of these characters and gives the story a deeper time span.
I’ve never been to Paris, but I certainly feel like I know my way around after reading this book (and studying about Paris in my own French class oh-so-many years ago!). I also like how Sussman intersperses French sentences here and there in story without weighing down the dialogue.
Since Paris is the city of love and one filled with delicious pastries, Sussman includes both in each of the three stories. I found myself blushing all while craving a sinful pain au chocolate (a flaky rectangular pastry filled with chocolate).
And better than that, I’m going to attend a luncheon reading with Sussman next week at one of Chicago’s finest French restaurants. Stay tuned!