French Lessons by Ellen Sussman- ARC Review

Posted May 30, 2011 by Kara in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

French LessonsFrench Lessons by Ellen Sussman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A single day in Paris changes the lives of three Americans as they each set off to explore the city with a French tutor, learning about language, love, and loss as their lives intersect in surprising ways.

Josie, Riley, and Jeremy have come to the City of Light for different reasons: Josie, a young high school teacher, arrives in hopes of healing a broken heart. Riley, a spirited but lonely expat housewife, struggles to feel connected to her husband and her new country. And Jeremy, the reserved husband of a renowned actress, is accompanying his wife on a film shoot, yet he feels distant from her world.

As they meet with their tutors—Josie with Nico, a sensitive poet; Riley with Phillippe, a shameless flirt; and Jeremy with the consummately beautiful Chantal—each succumbs to unexpected passion and unpredictable adventures. Yet as they traverse Paris’s grand boulevards and intimate, winding streets, they uncover surprising secrets about one another—and come to understand long-buried truths about themselves.


There are three semi-short stories that are the main meat of this book. The stories are intertwined by the prologue and the epilogue of three french tutors. The stories involve each of the tutors and their students as they spend a day in Paris together.

The French tutors names are Nico, Phillipe, and Chantal. Each of them have very distinct and different personalities. So do their students. I wouldn’t say that the book is plot heavy. There is a plot, but it’s actually not the main focus of the book. I definitely feel that it’s more of a character study, as the focus is on the characters themselves, their lives and interactions.

A few of the characters are likeable, but for the most part I found that most of them weren’t and they all were extremely damaged and flawed. You would think that this would lend the story to being extremely realistic and feeling very real-life, but on the contrary I felt that the story was very far-fetched and unbelievable. This is not necessary a bad thing though, it just made the story seem more of a realistic fantasy. And I think this is what the author intended.

It attempts to be a romantic plot but at the same time has a way of disgusting the reader in certain parts of the stories. None of the characters are happy in their current relationships you see, but by the end of their stories they have come to a revelation of some sort.

The imagery in the book is beautiful and Paris makes a great setting for this type of story. I only wish that I knew more about Paris and it’s streets and landmarks. I think it would have made the book even more magical for me.

It’s true that I don’t normally read books like this. But when I entered the Goodreads Giveaway, there was something about the summary that drew me in. And I am glad that I won, because sometimes it is refreshing to read things out of your comfort zone. It helps widen the horizons. In the end, I think it was a great book, definitely interesting, but also slightly depressing. It’s a fairly quick read, entertaining, and ultimately quite poetic.

View all my reviews

The book can be pre-ordered from Amazon here: French Lessons: A Novel It comes out officially on July 5th. 

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