Monday, February 27, 2006

mademoiselle benoir

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Back at the beginning of the month, I was contacted by a publisher in the States who was promoting a novel about an American in France. I told her that I'd be happy to read it and recommend it to all four of my readers if I did indeed like it.

Obviously, I did, because here we all are.

That book is Mademoiselle Benoir by Christine Conrad. Tim is an American mathematician who gives up his career to buy a farmhouse in France and pursue his other passion, painting. Along the way, he is introduced to Catherine, a Frenchwoman of bourgeois breeding and her own passion for painting. The two soon realize they are soul mates and begin to make arrangements to spend the rest of their lives together.

Of course there are stumbling blocks - the main one being that she is twenty years his senior. Catherine's demanding sister Pauline does everything in her power to stop them from getting married.

This story is told entirely through letters - from Tim to his family in New York and their replies, messages sent between the French family, and a journal entry here and there. I quite enjoyed watching the story unfold using this device.

Although there are one or two small factual errors (I'm sorry to report that one does not become a French citizen merely by marrying a French national, at least not immediately as one letter implies), the general feel of the book is accurate and I can certainly relate to Tim's wonder of discovering the vast amount of history that is tucked into every corner here, not to mention the culture clash and the wonderful characters to be found in the French countryside.

Mademoiselle Benoir is a quick, amusing read and I recommend it to anyone interested in the genre of (as I like to call it) "Foreigner in France," like Me Talk Pretty One Day and Almost French.

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