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Planning for my family’s June vacation to France started months before the trip.


One of my first considerations was what books I would bring. Paperbacks for sure. No lugging of hard backs. Adam Gopnick’s book of essays, Paris to the Moon, was the first book in my France stack. 


An eye-catching cover in blues and yellows with the name French Dirt caught my eye at Book Passage and that was the second. I’d avoided Peter Mayle’s classic, A Year in Provence. I wanted something a bit less known. But when I found it used for six dollars, I added it as the third and last book for my time in Paris and Provence.


The books called to me from their shelf in my bedroom closet. I’d run my hand over their firm edges and waiver in my resolve to wait until the plane took off. 


I held my desires in check.


I cracked open Paris to the Moon as soon as I could see clouds from my window seat. The description on the back cover said the author had moved from New York to Paris with his wife and baby, and the essays were about their family life. 


Well, not really.


The essays, brilliantly written, were more about French politics and cultural observances. Little mention of the writer’s family was made. Not what I was looking for.


I read about half the book before I switched to A Year in Provence. The writing and nonfiction stories just did not grab me, even as I toured the area in which the book was set. 


I started French Dirt and alternated among the three for the rest of the trip. I usually read one book at a time, from first page to last. I did finish French Dirt, by Richard Goodman, about his year of living in Provence and tending his garden. A pleasant read and my favorite of the three, but not quite enough depth for me.


I’m home now and ambivalent about finishing the other two.


I think the main issue with the books is that I didn’t find myself in them. I now have my own story to write of an American family’s travels in France. A grand story of love and adventure that I will hold dear for the rest of my life.


By Marianne Lonsdale

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