…this month’s article for the Canadian Australian Club newsletter…
I’m almost done, Almost French, a book I discovered at last month’s book exchange. While it was a small group, those who participated brought a variety of novels. We had our choice of dramatic and comedic works of fiction. One that immediately spoke to me was a memoir written by Sarah Turnbull called Almost French.
That night I cracked the cover, opened the pages and was astounded by how much the story resonated with me. It’s the real life account of an Aussie gal who finds love on holiday and then ends up transplanting her life from Sydney’s Northern Beaches to the fashion filled streets of Paris. Here she became one part of a loving threesome. Her new relationship shared love between her, her lover Frederic and Paris (a city she has carried a lifelong torch for).
Why am I writing about it here? Because so many of the experiences, issues and emotions detailed on the pages of Almost French are ones that I, and I’m sure many of you, have dealt with in making the adjustment to life in a new country.
Sarah, the main character, is filled with anticipation, hope and naïve and romantic notions about what life will be like in Paris. Her lofty ideals don’t take long to deflate when the daily reality fails to live up to the height of her expectations.
Through the adjustment, Sarah displays the effort, emotional fortitude and optimism required to love someone from another culture, explore a new neighbourhood, learn a foreign language, understand a strange culture, break into social cliques, make new friends, find a job and deal and with the self doubt that comes from seeing yourself through a whole new set of environmental filters. She deals with the growing loneliness that comes from being so far from family and friends, but she’s rewarded by discovering the highlights of the life, culture, customs, family and fashion necessary for a love-filled life in Paris.
The parallels between her story and my own, and, no doubt, many of yours, are many. Her story of adventure is told with a balance of inspiration and honesty.
A key message for me was shared with Sarah and the reader early in the book by a wise old Greek gentleman who had migrated to Australia. With this move, his life became a dilemma. When he’s in Australia, he feels Greek and when in Greece, he feels Australian. He says “it’s a bittersweet thing knowing two cultures. Once you leave your birthplace, nothing is the same.” He sums it up, “it’s a curse to love two countries” and “you always feel betwixt and between”.
Whether you view it as a blessing or a curse, leaving your birth place and pursuing your love for (or in) another country, for whatever reason, can be the beginning of an adventure of a lifetime.
So, tell me, do you feel Almost Australian?