Sunday, November 06, 2011

French Lessons by Ellen Sussman

Some might call this “chick lit,” but I think it has a bit more to it than that. I have done some pretty heavy reading lately, and when I left for a weekend in Charleston, I needed something a bit lighter.

Chantel and Philippe are lovers. Along with their friend Nico, all work for a tutoring school in Paris. As is the custom, they meet for coffee before beginning a day with their students wandering around Paris, helping them learn French. Philippe has been cheating on Chantel, and she has “revenge sex” with Nico. The novel breaks down into three parts. Nico instructs Josie, an American escaping to Paris after the sudden death of her lover, Simon, the married father of one of her students. Philippe pairs up with Riley, an ex-pat American with two children, and a husband, Victor, who spends way too much time on the job. Chantel strolls about the City of Lights with Jeremy, married to Dana, an American actress making a film. At the end of the day, they all arrive at the set of the movie on a bridge over the Seine.

Quite a few erotic scenes pepper the story, so this is definitely an NC-17 novel. But the discussions and the introspection elevate French Lessons quite a bit above an ordinary romance. Furthermore, the plot develops in an unexpected way for each pair of characters, and the ending has a nice twist.

A nice read for a rainy, damp, fall day curled up with a cup of tea and some soft music. 4 stars.

--Chiron, 11/6/11

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