As I mentioned in my post about my 2021 goals, I’ve decided to spend the year learning French in Duolingo, and reading books set in France.

After a month of daily Duolingo lessons, I can confidently say, “Le chat mange un croissant.” And more importantly, I have also learned “Ou son les toilettes?” So, I can now ask “Where is the bathroom?” in English, Spanish or French.

The list I am working from is chronological, and I did start with Candide and Dangerous Liaisons – both of which I recognize as classic literature. I can’t say I enjoyed either of them . Candide was a re-read, as I’d read it in one of the many lit classes I took in college. Dangerous Liaisons was new to me, but I found it tedious to read. Not one character in either book was the least bit likeable. I realize they were meant to be unlikeable, but mainly, both books annoyed me.

Just to keep things interesting, I’ve mixed in books I have on hand that are also on the list. Far more intriguing than either of the classics was A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable. It tells the story of Marthe de Florian – a demimondaine of the 1890’s – and the apartment full of furniture and artwork that she left behind. And of April, who is dispatched to Paris to appraise and assist with arranging the auction, while struggling with a troubled marriage. A collection of diaries takes April through Marthe’s fascinating background. Loosely based on a true story – there really was a Marthe de Florian and her apartment was indeed closed up for more than 70 years.

I also read The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier and Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris. Both interesting takes on life in a small town in France, especially for those who are a little “different” than the rest.

I’m starting February reading The Red and the Black by Stendhal (in the classics category) and listening to Juliet Blackwell’s Letters from Paris. And eating more croissants than I probably should…but they are so good! Obvious choice of tea for this project is Harney & Sons Paris. Will have to do a little research for other French teas as the year continues.

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