Lessons from a Stone Farmhouse
by Les Américains
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Pub Date 01 Jun 2016 | Archive Date 05 Dec 2023
The trouble started when their dream came true.
First they took French. Then they took leave of their senses. They bought a 400-year-old cottage in rural France from an ad on the Internet. Their “completely restored” farmhouse certainly looked charming, but the pool leaked, the walls cracked, and the electricity fizzled whenever they switched on the kettle.
This is the wry and witty memoir of les Américains, Eileen and Marty, joined by their chef-daughter Sara. Their dream of being French leads them into uncharted territory where "oh la la" takes on a whole different meaning.
Before they can even move in, a freak accident destroys the interior of the house. An ancient wisteria threatens to uproot the kitchen floor. The wildlife continually tries to take up residence, and the pool becomes a watery hole that swallows up euros. And then there’s Jacqueline.
The only way les Américains can salvage their sanity is by adopting a simple, time-tested mantra: “Have a setback, have a drink.” Soon they’re buying rosé by the case.
Whether you’re a traveler, foodie, Francophile, or home-improvement veteran, Beginning French will enchant you with its vivid portrayal of part-time life in southwest France. Home chefs will enjoy the 12 Dordogne-inspired recipes, and English speakers will appreciate the interactive glossary of French terms.
About the Authors
Les Américains is the nom de plume of Eileen McKenna and Marty Neumeier, an American couple who divide their time between California and France. Eileen is the kind of person who can predict an entire plot from the first line of a novel, or the first scene in a movie. Marty is a design consultant who has written six bestselling books on innovation, creativity, and branding. Their daughter Sara, who appears in Beginning French and contributes the recipes, is a New York food stylist who began her career at Martha Stewart Living. The trois Amèricains meet every summer in France—to cook, write, and share photos and travel tips with their followers. Go to beginningfrench.com to read more stories, print out recipes, or set up a book club visit over Skype.
A Note From the Publisher
The ebook is unique in that many French words and phrases are linked to a glossary in the back. Just tap on a word and the definition page appears. Tap again to return to the story.
*STARRED REVIEW* A California couple realize their ambition of owning a house in rural France in this debut memoir by les Américains. The transition was not without calamity, and when the boiler malfunctioned, flooding the house with water and ruining the majority of their possessions, the two grasped that striving for a new life abroad can come with a price. Living in France offers many rewards, and the couple’s triumphs in learning the language and assimilating into a new culture are a joy to discover. The gorgeous landscapes provide an ever-present backdrop, captured in bursts of warm, descriptive prose: “As we drove, the landscape changed from rolling hills and vineyards to forests and rocky outcrops. Golden cliffs curved out over the road, undercut by the carving action of long-ago rivers.” The duo displays a gastronomic fascination with French cuisine, and the text delivers mouthwatering recipes, such as an indulgent goat cheese soufflé and a scrumptious lemon cheesecake. Thoughtfully written, understated, and without pretension, this book should appeal to Francophiles and epicureans alike. It also pays testament to the single-mindedness, bravery, and unfaltering desire of two particularly likable “Américains” who set out to fulfill a dream. A delightfully evocative farmhouse tale; as satisfying as a summer evening on a French terrace, with a cool glass of rosé in hand. —Kirkus Reviews
"Move over Peter Mayle, the Americans have landed." —France Today
“For anyone who ever wanted to ditch it all and move far away, this is the book for you. Funny and unforgettable." —For the Love of Books
“If this is the closest I get to a vacation this year, I'll take it." —The Suburban Eclectic Review
A practical guide, a beautifully written story, and a fabulous cookbook...this book makes you hungry!" —The Good Life France
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 183 members
This is a really charming book about an American couple who buys a rustic farmhouse in France. There is French sprinkled throughout their conversations in the book, but nothing too complicated- plus in the e-book version all French words and phrases are linked to a dictionary in the back of the book.
I enjoyed reading about their experiences, which no matter how problematic (walls falling, electricity failing) were always written in a fun "c'est la vie" way and never in a whining, poor us way. I'd recommend this for any Francophiles or fans of Under the Tuscan Sun.
Meet Eileen and Marty. They just bought a money pit in rural France; they speak just enough French to get into trouble, and I want to be like them when I grow up. The breezy, light-hearted tone never takes itself too seriously yet still inspires deep envy from anyone that ever yearns to live abroad. Beginning French is the next best thing to being in France and if this is the closest I get to a vacation this year I'll take it.
Oh, how I'd love to meet (or be just like) Marty and Eileen! They buy a 400 year old cottage in France for their second home. This is the utterly charming and witty memoir of their journey to "be French." There are some unexpected events, language problems and renovations along the way, as there always are, and these are related with great humor and ease. There's just enough of the French language sprinkled in to make it fun. I loved hearing about a part of France not usually seen, especially the village life. And the recipes from their daughter, Sara the chef, look delicious! A quick read, I actually would have liked more! I am looking forward to checking out their website for more stories and recipes. Highly Recommend! 4.5 stars at least! Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me read this. A pure delight!
after buying a place in rural France,American couple Marty and Eileen's life in the farmhouse is a charming and deliciously good insight into moving to a place that is totally different from the one you are used to. This book appealed to me immensely and gave my love of all things French a new and revived admiration. Beautifully descriptive and with the added bonus of daughter Sara's cooking skills, you are transported, with some funny moments and a good mix of life in Aquitaine, this will either convince you to move there or put you off completely. Highly recommendable and completely uncomplicated.. it is perfect for summer reading.
The thought of owning a house in France just sounds so wonderful. To experience what Eileen and Marty are with their purchase of a house known as Le Reve, the dream, is exactly that a dream with some nightmares along the way.
The two together write about their life before France and their life in France, the trials, tribulations, laughs and loves. I enjoy reading about even the small mundane things like a VCR to the excitement of town festival. Their friends are ones that I would love to sit around a picnic table enjoying a glass of wine with a discussing the news.
The writing is fluid and the story is wonderful, escaping into this book was a vicarious escape of the best kind.
Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for the copy in exchange for my honest review.
Beginning French was such a treat to read. My husband and I lived in France for six months, so much of what they talk about I definitely remember and understand! Their writing is wonderful because it's clear and concise - and often witty, my favorite kind. I snorted when Marty said he had the same ear for French numbers as a German Shepherd did for Shakespeare sonnets, because IT'S SO TRUE. French numbers are the worst, and I had the same problem.
They also do what is surprisingly difficult for travel writers to do - they have a good balance. They are honest about their struggles, but they also recognize and understand the blessing they have in living in such a beautiful foreign country. I appreciated the recipes they included in the book as well, because they sounded delicious.
My only complaint is that I didn't want this to end!
Loved hearing about the neighbors and markets in France. Appreciated the recipes that accompanied the chapters and also the glossary. Wish it left out the story line with Jackie. Would like another installment...
I'd like to thank Netgalley and the Les Americans for providing me with a free copy. The views mentioned are purely my own.
Beginning French was perfect for a Francophile like me. I have forever dreamed of living in a different country and this is an apt introduction to country living in France.
Marty and Eileen have always dreamed of travelling and on one such trip they fall in love with the rural France. They're are so enchanted, they end up buying a 400 year old villa. With the beautiful villa comes a breathtaking view and loads of problems. This is their memoir of such misadventures and the joys of living in France.
Throughout their journey I was with them. I worried when the boiler exploded and ecstatic when their journey took them to the night markets sampling the fresh food or listening to the local bands. Their recipes seemed good too but since I'm a vegetarian a lot of them aren't useful to me.
If you're suffering from the lack of Vitamin F (France), this is a perfect medicine.
"Beginning French" is a truly lovely gem of a story. The authors, along with their adult daughter, purchase a "home" in a tiny medieval village named Issageac, in the Dordogne area of France. I know what you're thinking; you have heard this story before, right? I, too, have read many books with the same premise. However, in this case, the authors have created a different atmosphere, not all is sunshine and wine, nor gloom and doom. Their approach is one of honesty, whereby they lay bare their souls in describing their journey to try to "become French" (albeit with a good dose of humor). Whether it's describing a local "night market", toads in the swimming pool, the Lascaux caves (fascinating descriptions), or an overly-amorous carpet salesperson, you will feel like you are standing next to the authors as they have their experiences. They have some great insights into life also. That money doesn't equate with wealth. Wealth comes from investing in things that matter. Things like family, experiences, learning about other people and cultures. I became emotionally invested in this book. So much so that at one point, I found myself genuinely concerned about their future (no spoiler allowed). That's a rarity for me these days, and it was a nice feeling.
And if the story isn't enough to pique your interest, there are numerous wonderful recipes in the book, created by their daughter, a chef. Do yourself a favor and check this book out. You will not be disappointed!
I genuinely enjoyed this book. Made me want to head back to France for a visit. Enjoyed the stories of the food and the lifestyle of living in a village in France. Enjoyable read.
J'adore! With this quick and witty memoir I get to experience discovering France, falling in love with it and purchasing a home in South of France. How cool is that! Les Americains is a fabulous family and I am glad they wrote this book. I got paper copies of the book for myself and my friend. I suggested ebook to my other friends.
Les Amercains have written a delightful book, which will be a treasure, to the traveler, the Francophile, or the wannabe-French, like me. The vin rose is dry, the wit is wry, the recipes are mouth watering. Marty writes in the first person, although I can just feel Eileen leaning over his shoulder saying "No, Marty, it was a Renault, not a Citroen". Clever man, he actually knows how lucky he is, and how lucky they both were to find compatible friends in a new town. Even luckier to be accepted into the local Friday night boules game. If all this seems a little arcane to you, you probably ought to buy this book. But before you start to read it, open a bottle of chilled rose wine, set out some fruit and goat cheese and shut off your phone. You'll be reading it straight through.
Great book for travelers, perfect for a light hearted look at life. Beautiful descriptions of the the French country side.
This book is so much more than a travel book, it's a memoir and a cook book. It also helped my rather limited French. I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and had a good laugh. Well written and mostly upbeat, with characters I would love to meet, and places I would love to see. The recipes are mouth watering, although my cooking ability is several steps below Eileen!. I lived in Normandy for two years in the 60's so I found myself remembering some of my long forgotten French.
Truly entertaining and charming story. I enjoyed the book and found the tales from Les Americains adventures buying a rustic farmhouse in France to be beguiling. Les Americains themselves are funny and interesting and I genuinely liked theme and the vignettes they had to offer.
Very amusing and interesting read about the author and his family's move to France. Having had friends who did the same thing, and going to France to visit them I could easily relate to this book.
Superb book, I truely could not put this down. The authors writes with humour, details and skill. I would imagine the area that the book is written about will be inundated with visitors. The ambience slips off the page and takes you there, leaving you wanting to experience everything the authors have. Excellent book.
I just finished this charming memoir-of-sorts by “Les Américains”. In it, Marty Neumeier tells the story of how he and his wife Eileen McKenna, Americans from California, ended up buying a house in Dordogne, in the very same area that the fictional Bruno, Chief of Police lives. (The Bruno series by Martin Walker is one of my favourite mysteries.) It was very intriguing to see French country life from the point of view of a real-life North American.
The couple is joined by their daughter Sara who is a chef, which is a happy circumstance considering that they are now in the “gastronomic heartland of France”. (see Bruno, book 4)
I loved Marty’s accounts of the town and village markets, particularly the night markets of which I was not previously aware, and which add to my list of reasons for revisiting southern France. At one of these night markets, the family enjoyed duck burgers with an onion jam.
There are several actual recipes in Beginning French. Many involve using duck breast and other ingredients which are not readily available in rural Nova Scotia, but I was intrigued by the instructions for the onion jam which Sara replicated when she returned to the house. It was quick and easy to make, and beautiful to look at!
We had no duck burgers or foie gras to try it out on, but it was delicious on our sausages in a bun. And I will be sure to have this delightful book with me when I next stay in France. Our rented stone cottage had a full kitchen and I’m sure I’ll be able to source the proper ingredients for a genuine French feast.
I found this to be an engaging, humorous account of a couple's realizing their dream of buying a home in rural France and wanting to assimilate with the locals. I enjoyed the recipes sprinkled throughout (provided by their daughter) and the candidness with which the husband revealed the cracks in the marriage and what he did to make reparation.
If you love books about foreigners finding themselves in France, do yourself a favor and pick up this charming memoir about a couple who falls in love with the French countryside and buys a decrepit stone cottage with a magnificent view, in order to spend summers living as the French do. Chapters are short, anecdotes vivid, and there are recipes! It's a fast, thoroughly enjoyable read. You'll be rooting for Marty, Eileen, and daughter Sara!
Beginning French: Lessons from a a Stone Farmhouse by Les Americans (a husband and wife duo) is an enjoyable memoir about a California couple, Eileen and Marty, who do something that most of us only dream about. They purchase a second home--a 400 year old farmhouse in the idyllic French countryside. The charming cottage in southwestern France soon gives them many opportunities to practice their " beginning French" and the fun French phrase-- "Oh la la la la". (Which means "Ohhh, my goodness" or "wow!" or ""I just can't believe it!" in English.). A freak accident destroys the interior of the charming farmhouse before they can even move in, and then other things start to go wrong: the pool leaks, the walls crack, the electricity is cantankerous. The couple soldiers through the setbacks with the help of wonderful neighbors, cases of rose, and the phrase "Have a setback, have a drink." Despite all of the setbacks, the farmhouse becomes a haven and the couple enjoy the local culture and people. The couple's daughter who is a chef also spends time with them there and recipes are also interspersed throughout the book. I enjoyed escaping to rural France through their memoir!
A delightful tale of a couple who moves to France and buys a rural farmhouse. They do not speak French and have to learn the culture day by day. You will find yourself laughing out loud as you follow their trials and tribulations. Its a humorous fun read..
I received a ARC that did not influence my review.
This is going on my keeper shelf! I love this book! So brave of the Neumeier's to follow their dream. I wish I had when I was younger, but I'm not wasting time! You only live once; make the most of it! Great story!
If you have ever dreamed about owning a vacation home in France, this book may make you to reconsider or convince you to buy. Both good and bad points are covered in this well written book. At times you may wonder if it was worth it and other times you will want to jump on a plane to experience the loveliness (and the food) of the south of France. I enjoyed this book and thought it accurately portrayed what it must be like to have a second home on another continent.
A great read,about a couple buying a place in France,and all the things that they have get done,in a place where they don't speak french,a very good book, would love to do the same,well written.
Thoroughly enjoyed this memoir. The story evoked images of long sunny French holidays, delicious red wine and tasty French cuisine - lots of it!. Looking forward to reading the follow up!
Californians, Eileen and Marty buy a house in France because they don't just want to be tourists - they want to immerse themselves in French culture. I have a weakness for these sorts of memoirs and this book did not disappoint. An exploding boiler, frogs in the swimming pool and cracked floor tiles do little to deter this couple because for every French bureaucrat and language mishap, they make lifelong friends, spend time with their adult daughter and grow closer as a couple. Pour a glass of rose and savor Beginning French (complete with recipes).
I am an admitted Francophile, while never actually setting foot in the country. I read anything and everything I can about it, it’s people and it’s culture. So, I didn’t hesitate to read Beginning French by les Americains.
This was a quick, light, easy read. The Americains are a couple who bought a 400 year old cottage in rural France. They are still living in America, but get over to France whenever they can to work on the cottage. And, it does need a lot of work.
Like any old house, especially one 400 years old, there is a lot of work to be done. Boilers break, electricity seems to work on it’s own schedule, and walls may be leaning a bit!
The stories are charming with glimpses into the French culture. The food is lovingly described and there are even a few recipes in the book. I will definitely be making the Fresh Sgroppini - a champagne and sorbet drink that sounds wonderful.
A nice fun read, especially if you love to travel, love France, or just like reading about people’s adventures with old homes and different cultures.
I received an ARC copy of this book.
"Beginning French" is a charming memoir of a couple's experience living their dream when they buy a small farmhouse in France. Difficult to put down, this memoir is one part travel log, one part family and friends, and two parts joy of cooking and eating great food. Written by Marty, the spouse of Eileen and father to Sara, he details their life experiences as they embark on a new chapter by owning a piece of French history and becoming French in their own American way. I followed along through their trials and tribulations of buying a partially restored farmhouse complete with a 400-year-old barn, their faux pas like bringing in “outside” croissants to their hotel, immersing themselves in the French culture by attending Bodegas (community parties with music, food, and wine) and my favorite, their philosophy of solving any problem starts with a glass of wine. Thank you, Marty, for allowing me to tag along and experience France in my own "American" way.
A most delightful novel; translated from the original French edition. It is an easy read that draws the reader immediately into the romance of the French countryside and an American couple who buy a villa and meet the challenges of repairs and learning the French language. You will come to know their daughter who visits, their neighbors, the shopkeepers. and the fragrance of sunflowers and lavender. The enjoyment of this book is enhanced with recipes and French translation dictionary.