Foreign Tongue: A Novel of Life and Love in Paris by Vanina Marsot
Anna is running away from Los Angeles and the debacle that was her relationship with an actor boyfriend who began cheating on her the moment the clock started ticking on his fifteen minutes. As a result of her dual French/US citizenship and her aunt’s empty Parisian flat, Anna has a much better escape route than most and she is open and honest on both accounts. Having the luxury of living rent free in the City of Lights, she is able to catch up with her friends in Paris. The trouble is that they each had their own lives and, being without a job, she spends much of her time sulking and brooding over her broken heart. It isn’t until Bunny, her mentor and father figure suggests that she find a way to employ herself during one of their frequent lunches that her life starts to turn around. Because she was bilingual and spoke French as if she were born and raised there that she was able to snag a part time job translating an anonymous yet famous Parisian’s erotic novel about the love of his life. She then enters the literary life of Paris and the arms of Olivier, a handsome stage actor.
Foreign Tongue is an apt name for this novel. By intermingling sex, language, culture, love, and translation the way that Vanina Marsot defines the phrase foreign tongue in every conceivable way. When I meet someone who speaks another language, I love to learn a word or two. What interests me the most, however, are cuss words. Most specifically, my favorite cuss word, mother f*cker. Although Foreign Tongue never used that particular term, I learned an awful lot of French cuss words, specifically how they relate to erotica. I was absolutely in heaven. There is a passage in the novel where Anna compares the differences between “Suck me!” in English and French. I found her dissection of these phrase based upon the sound of the words rolling off the tongue and the sound of the act itself absolutely fascinating. It wasn’t just the dirty bits that enthralled me, though. Like no novel before, it gave me the desire to go back to school. I would love to study French and linguistics and incorporate more phrases such as “Arrête ton cinéma!” into my life.
It isn’t long into her self-inflicted exile that Anna realizes that she has something more important to do than nurse her broken heart. She discovers that she is unsure of who she is when she’s not in a relationship. Despite how important learning to be comfortable with herself is, she cannot help resist jumping quickly and directly into an overwhelming and passionate relationship with another actor. When she eventually starts to doubt Olivier’s feelings toward her and falls into yet another despair without Bunny in town to build her back up, the story does seem to slow down. In reality there is much more going on under the surface that is not readily apparent despite the clues that come to mind the moment the novel is finished. This is not a simple and straight forward novel by any means.
The moment I finished it I wanted to start it all over again. I cannot completely express the number of ways in which I enjoyed Vanina Marsot’s novel. It is a story of a woman falling in and out of love with a man. It is a love story between a woman and her two countries of citizenship: France and the United States. It is a love story between a woman and language. Most of all, it is the story of a woman falling in love with her life. I cannot recommend this novel enough. It is invigorating and inspiring and is one book you won’t want to miss.
Literate Housewife Seal of Approval
As you might have noticed, I don’t rate novels on this site. I write honest reviews that express my opintions. I have difficulty with using a numeric ranking system because, for me, the number I pick often is subject to my feelings at the time. I’ve read such good novels over time that I wanted to have some way to distinguish an average good to great novel from one that truly stands out in my heart. With the help of my wonderful cyber sister Sheri from A Novel Menagerie, I now have the ability to do just that. I loved Foreign Tongue so much that it is the first recipient of The Literate Housewife Review’s Seal of Approval! Whenever you see this graphic at the end of a review, it is guaranteed to be a good read.
Foreign Tongue will be published by HarperCollins on April 14. To pre-order this novel, click here.