French Impressions: The Adventures of an American Family

John S. Littell, Author, Mary W. Littell, Joint Author New American Library $22.95 (354p) ISBN 978-0-451-20098-3
""No normal people, unless facing imminent arrest, would even contemplate such madness,"" Littell says of the year his family spent in France in the early 1950s. Frank Littell, John's father, enrolled at the University of Montpellier on the G.I. Bill, taking his wife, Mary, and his young sons along. The tales of the family's experiences in the south of France are told from the perspective of Mary, whose diaries and other writings form the basis for this memoir. With Frank busy at school, Mary is left to fend for herself and to try to make herself at home in the strange city. A self-described dunce at learning languages, she struggles to communicate with the locals, while her children, four-year-old John and 15-month-old Stephen, effortlessly switch between English and French. Mary recounts with self-deprecating humor the disastrous Thanksgiving dinner when, unable to procure a turkey, she unknowingly cooks a swan; her encounters with the ""O-la-la ladies"" (so-called for their invariable reaction to Mary's decadent American buying habits) during her daily shopping trips; and her horror when she discovers she has been ordering alcoholic cider for Stephen at their local watering hole. Inevitably, despite such obstacles, intrepid Mary and her family win the hearts of their neighbors and settle into the pace of life in Montpellier. Charmingly related with Mary's dry wit, the anecdotes that make up this memoir are amusing if dated. B&w photos. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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