Sunday 23 October 2011

French Lessons by Ellen Sussman

Ellen Sussman is an American author who lives in San Francisco.  French Lessons will be published in the UK by Constable Robinson on 3 November 2011 and is her second novel.

The story takes place over a single day in Paris and revolves around six people.  The prologue introduces the reader to three French tutors; Nico, Philippe and Chantal.  The tutors are three very different people who are linked by not just their jobs, but through their mixed-up personal lives too.
The story is then split into three separate sections.  In the first, the reader follows Nico and his pupil Josie, we then accompany Philippe and Riley and finally Chantal and Jeremy.

The three couples wander the streets of Paris, exploring the beautiful city and finding out little pieces of each other's lives as they walk.

There is a certain air of detachment about both the story and the characters as a whole which is understandable as the whole book takes place during just one day.  This is not a criticism, it only adds to the mystery of the characters and their feelings and behaviours.

One would expect a story set in Paris to be a story of romance and whilst there is certainly an abundance of fairly explicit sexual activity, this is not really a romantic read.

It is a story about loneliness and loss, of expectations and hopes and is most definitely character driven rather than a fast, action filled plot.

Ellen Sussman
The three stories are very cleverly woven together, and although the character's inner most thoughts and ideas are exposed, there still remains a mystery about all of them.

The city of Paris takes centre stage in this novel, the streets, the cafes, the museums and the people are wonderfully described and brought to life.

Many thanks, as always to Emily from Constable Robinson for sending a copy of French Lessons to me.


  1. This is on my wishlist. I love the idea of 3 stories being unravelled.

    great review


  2. Added to my wishlist as well. :)