Dreaming in French
Charlotte Sanders is fifteen in 1979, living on the Rue de Seine in Paris and attending the Ecole Bilingue Colbert, a school populated by rich Americans and exiled royalty. Charlotte seems to have the perfect life: a doting, if distant father; a ravishingly fashionable mother that she adores; the requisite older sister to admire and abhor; and a boyfriend who is brooding and sexy. All that is shattered when her mother is arrested in Poland, behind the Iron Curtain, where she followed her lover, a Polish revolutionary. Charlotte is forced to choose between father and mother, and with her sister choosing their father, Charlotte cannot abandon the mother she has always adored.
Dreaming in French follows Charlotte on her road to becoming a woman, to understanding her mother and father, and to deciding what kind of person she wants to be. McAndrew writes with such confidence, this could be a memoir. Her voice is natural and charming. The characters evolve with time, delicately aging, dragging their flaws and dreams along. Major historical events are interwoven with quotidian details, evoking the decades and cities Charlotte passes through. When the book ends with Charlotte, age thirty, comfortable with herself and her life, we know the story is not over. Charlotte’s life will continue; she will age and evolve as will the people and places around her, in the same way our own lives move through time. Finally, that is what Dreaming in French captures with such richness: the story of one person, different from us—but the same too, living the life given to her.