French Lessons – Ellen Sussman

Paris, a French Language School, three French tutors and three very different American Students.

Chantal, Nico and Phillipe are the tutors. Chantal is going out with Phillipe, who in turn basically seeks out sex with anything female, including his students.  Nico seems the more mature of the three but he has also slept with Chantal, in an obvious revenge tactic on Chantal’s part.

Josie, a french teacher back in California has left her job when she falls in love with the father of one of her students. Circumstances mean Josie has to face up to her future nad grieve for a past that did not really belong to her.

Riley, a wife transported to Paris because of her husband. She has alienated herself completely by not getting involved with anything remotely French including the language. Even her children are more adept than she is.

Jeremy, who would rather be at home in America than in Paris has french lessons as a mere diversion and for something to do whilst his wife, an American movie star is filming her latest film.

The structure of the book I thought was clever this is just about one day in all of their lives. First the introduction to the tutors and their some what incestuous relationships, then each character and their tutor in turn, at the end of each what can only be described as a short story is finished they are all watching the same scene unfold in Paris. Then with a final denouement with the tutors again.

However the author has not pulled it off in my opinion, they are simply three short stories which perhaps work on their own as they all deal with love and grief with differing impacts and meanings but other than the fact they all end up at the same place in Paris, watching the set up of the filming on the river Seine there was no other connection for me.

This novel could have been so much more, and although I did enjoy the setting of Paris and  it was beautifully described, which if you have read about this author you will know that she has spent a lot of time in Paris and therefore had ‘insider’ knowledge it really did not enthrall me at all and left me feeling rather bored and uninspired.

Like other reviewers on Amazon, and I am slightly pleased that I only spent £1 on this book. I know I would have felt cheated by paying anymore. It is a shame when a book disappoints and it often makes me really think long and hard about the review because I want to be fair but I have to admit that the book was just not for me. 


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