French Lessons

On occasion I read books with very little preconceived notions about them - an unfamiliar author, a title I've never noticed - usually because a cover or a blurb draws me to them. Such was my experience with French Lessons by Ellen Sussman. 

And really, who doesn't want a literary escape to Paris once in a while? :)

That said, little impressed me about this book besides the setting and the slightly unique storytelling style. The story follows the day in the life of three French tutors - Nico, Phillipe, and Chantel. The drama between the three is set up immediately as Philippe and Chantel are lovers but Phillipe's infidelity has sent Chantel into the arms of Nico who carries a lingering attraction to her. But rather than focus on this triangle, the story proceeds in portions with a short tale of each of their separate days teaching. Nico's student is the heartbroken American Josie; Phillipe is on assignment with Riley, a lonely housewife; and Chantel tutors Jeremy, the husband of an American actress.

At first the vignettes seem disjointed, but what appears as an unconnected series of occurrences blends into a nice interwoven character drama at the end. I liked the way Ellen Sussman constructed French Lessons and the Paris setting was vividly detailed, but I had a hard time connecting with - and thus caring about - the characters. Nico was by far my favorite so his portion of the story was most enjoyable for me.  Since his narration started the story, the book lost steam towards the middle, but I did appreciate how all the stories were tied together in the end. 

Do you ever pick books to read that you have little to no previous impression about?  I know the cover and blurb of this one sounded really intriguing to me but I hadn't read any previous reviews, nor was I familiar with Sussman's writing.  This one wasn't my favorite, but have you ever picked a book rather randomly and been surprised by the treasure you discovered?

3 Response to "French Lessons"

  1. Kate says:
    November 9, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    I'm going to have to check this out. I LOVE books set in Paris.

  2. Sam (Tiny Library) says:
    November 9, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    I got this one for my kindle for £0.99. I'm quite excited to read it, even if it didn't completely work out for you.

  3. Anonymous Says:
    November 9, 2011 at 7:49 PM

    My favorite was the first story; for some reason that resonated with me despite the immorality.

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