Pub Date: July 16, 2024

Author: Mary Fleming

When recent college graduate Lily Owens enrolls in the Civilisation Française course at the Sorbonne in 1982, she hopes to put a difficult childhood behind her and to find direction for her future. She moves into a mansion on the place des Vosges where her job is to help the housekeeper, Germaine, care for the elderly, half-blind Amenia Quinon, another ex-pat American. The three women live alone in this old house of silence and secrets, mostly revolving in their own worlds. When Lily extends an invitation to a friend, all of their lives are upended. Moving, sometimes humorous and always engrossing, Civilisation Française is a powerful story about facing our past, discovering a future, and the meaning of home.


“Anyone who has spent her junior year abroad (or not) will love this Balzacian tale of a dark old house in Paris … This book will either take you back or introduce you afresh to the wonders of French life.” —Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce


“…the setup is intriguing, and readers will want to know the intertwined fates of the two leads. ” —Kirkus Reviews


 “…taut and subtle….Within its intricate and nuanced portrait of Paris, the novel Civilisation Française explores compelling alliances and experiences.”

Foreword Reviews


“…a haunting novel about the pull of time past and future, and the courage to live fully one’s life and death.” —Laura Furman, author of The Mother Who Stayed


“…a fresh, tragicomic view of the Américaine-in-Paris novel Eloquent, erudite and entertaining.” —Jake Lamar, author of Ghosts of Saint-Michel


“With her deep knowledge of French manners and mores and mischievous sense of humor, Fleming turns the classic situation on its head. Civilisation Française is a work of grande classe. —Harriet Welty Rochefort, author of French Toast


“… a young American takes a course in French civilization and learns more than she bargains for… and is the better for it.  So is the reader.”

— Lily Tuck, author of The Double Life of Liliane