Lessons in French
Kate may speak fluent French, but she arrives at the Schell household in the fashionable Sixth Arrondissement both dazzled and wildly impressionable. She finds herself surrounded by a seductive cast of characters, including the bright, pretentious Schells, with whom she boards, and their assortment of famous friends; Kate’s own flamboyant cousin; a fellow Yalie who seems to have it all figured out; and a bande of independently wealthy young men with royal lineage. As Kate rediscovers Paris and her roots there, while trying to fit into Lydia’s glamorous and complicated family, she begins to question the kindness of the people to whom she is so drawn as well as her own motives for wanting them to love her.
In compelling and sympathetic prose, Hilary Reyl perfectly captures this portrait of a precocious, ambitious young woman struggling to define herself in a vibrant world that spirals out of her control. Lessons in French is at once a love letter to Paris and the story of a young woman finding herself, her moral compass, and, finally, her true family.
Reading Group Guide
Set against the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Lessons in French follows Kate, a recent Yale graduate who moves to Paris to work with renowned photographer Lydia Schell. Lydia proves an unstable tour de force who introduces Kate to the likes of Umberto Eco and Henri Cartier-Bresson while testing Kate’s patience with unpredictable work assignments. A talented artist in her own right, Kate struggles to establish her own style in both her artwork and personal life, both of which are challenged throughout the novel. As Kate’s relationships with Lydia and her family become more complicated than she ever could have anticipated, she is faced with a decision: sacrifice her burgeoning individuality for the sake of her job or sacrifice a budding career to maintain her integrity. With guidance from family and an eclectic group of confidantes, Kate rejects the Schell’s enticing but complicated bourgeoisie lifestyle in order truly to develop her see more