“This is a wonderful debut memoir, made much more appealing because it is true. A well written, fast-paced book enhanced by sprinkles of French.”
In the summer of 1979, twenty-one-year-old Linda Kovic contracts to become an au pair for an wealthy French family in the Loire Valley. To secure the position, she pretends to speak the language, fully aware her deception will be discovered once she arrives at her destination. Based on the author’s diary, French Illusions captures Linda’s fascinating real-life story inside and outside the Château de Montclair. The over-bearing, Madame Dubois, her accommodating husband, Monsieur Dubois, and their two children are highlighted as Linda struggles to adapt to her new environment. Continually battling the language barrier, she signs up and attends classes at the local university in the nearby town of Tours, broadening her range of experiences. When she encounters, Adam, a handsome young student, her life with the Dubois family becomes more complicated, adding fuel to her internal battle for independence.–Description from Goodreads
From the beginning of Linda’s book, it is easy to love her. She is open, honest and definitely has the type of personality you want your heroine to have, whether the book is fiction or reality. I couldn’t help but root for Linda throughout her trials with her host family, even when I thought she acted as a bit of a brat herself. Listening to her internal thoughts about what she went through and her desire to achieve her goals made this book feel close to my heart.
I applaud the adventurous spirit of the author and her decision to keep journal entries from that chapter of her life. What great material to have later to inspire a book! While I enjoyed the entire memoir, my favourite part of this book would have to be the author’s descriptions of the many places she visited and the people she met along the way. While I think she could definitely have made a better impression on the family she worked for if she had been honest about her lack of French language skills from the beginning, she is a pioneer. Her drive and desire to learn the language from those in the actual country was inspiring. Not many people would have been gutsy enough to do what Linda did.
I also particularly enjoyed the relationship between Linda and Antoine. The Kind heart of the author was apparent in her actions toward the children, even when she struggled with them.
There is some romance, and I appreciated the way the author handled it. While sex scenes are not necessarily automatically offensive, there is something about memoirs that makes me uncomfortable if they are filled with them. This author manages to hint at her experiences without going into too much detail, leaving the reader to decide exactly what happened. Great writing.
When you step into reading this book, you learn a lot about French customs, French cuisine and wine. You also get the opportunity to brush up on your French skills a bit and get to step outside yourself and live an adventure through the eyes of the author. I read this book in one sitting with very few breaks in between and found myself enthralled in the sights, sounds and atmosphere of this memoir.
In the end, I was disappointed that the book ended. I could have kept reading about Linda’s experiences without stopping anytime in the foreseeable future. The end of the book leaves many unanswered questions, that I am assuming the author will be answering in her next book. Were this a standalone, I would be very disappointed with the way the book ended, but with the knowledge that she is writing another book to continue with her story, I can’t fault this one. One thing is for sure, if you read this book, you will be anxiously awaiting the next.
I would recommend this to anyone who likes books about travel, memoirs or just a good story that came from the recollections and heart of the author. Read it, you will be glad you did. Overall, this was a VERY enjoyable read that gave me many reasons to wish I could drop everything and head off to France!