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ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? by Ron Hansen

ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?

An Entertainment

By Ron Hansen

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-06-051766-2
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

A pleasant diversion from the usually weighty Hansen (Hitler’s Niece, 1999, etc.): an amiable account of an ill-matched French couple who get lost in America and discover each other.

Natalie Clairvaux is one of those French people who, thinking they like America, actually like all the wrong things (Jerry Lewis movies, for example). A librarian in the Americana section of the Bibliotheque Francaise, Natalie follows US football, adores Hollywood movies, and even thinks highly of Walt Disney. One summer she decides to visit the US for the first time and arranges a bus trip from coast to coast in order to see as much of the country as possible. She doesn’t know, of course, that cross-country buses in the US are ridden mainly by petty crooks, mental cases, and teenaged runaways, so the first few days of interstates, cheap motels, and gas station food come as something of an unpleasant surprise. By the time Natalie’s estranged fiancé Pierre tracks her down in the little Nebraska town of Seldom, she is worn out by her adventure and almost glad to see him. When they miss the last bus out of town for three days, however, the situation looks dire indeed—until they meet up with some of the locals. Owen Nelson, mechanic and winemaker, puts Pierre up at his place and introduces him to the local vintages (which, astonishingly to Pierre, are quite good). Natalie stays at a local boardinghouse called Queen of the Revels, named for the annual three-day festival in honor of Seldom’s French founding father. Where’s the romance in this? Well, Pierre falls in love with Iona Christiansen, waitress at the local diner, while Natalie is pursued by the 50-something rancher Dick Tupper. And? That would be giving it away. Suffice it to say that sometimes you have to go a long way to see what was right next to you all along.

An amusement, but no more.