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When in Frenchis a laugh-out-loud funny and surprising memoir about the lengths we go to for love, as well as an exploration across culture and history into how we learn languages and what they say about who we are. Collins grapples with the complexities of the French language, enduring excruciating role-playing games with her classmates at a Swiss language school and accidently telling her mother-in-law that she s given birth to a coffee machine. In learning French, Collins must wrestle with the very nature of French identity and society which, it turns out, is a far cry from life back home in North Carolina. Plumbing the mysterious depths of humanity s many forms of language, Collins describes with great style and wicked humor the frustrations, embarrassments, surprises, and, finally, joys of learning and living in French."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-05-30
- Reviewer: Staff
This smart memoir by New Yorker writer Collins is an extended essay on how the languages we speak shape who we are. Collins is an American living in London who speaks little French when she falls in love with a Frenchman who speaks excellent English. They marry and move to Francophone Geneva, where Collins decides to learn French after envisioning herself as a mother who can’t understand half of what her own kids are saying. Throughout, Collins shares excerpts from works of history, philosophy, psychology, politics, and literature that show how pervasive language’s influence is on every aspect of our lives. Political goofs result from mistranslation. Even the meaning of love might depend on how you express it: Does “Je t’aime” mean something different from “I love you”? The transitions can be clunky as Collins shifts between story telling and embarking on academic discussions, but her writing is often elegant and exact. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Elyse Cheney Literary. (Sept.)