Feel Content Wherever You Are: Christina Woosley Reviews Eric Freeze's French Dive: Living More With Less in the South of France

Eric Freeze’s French Dive:Living More With Less in the South of France  is the true tale of the author’s experience moving from Indiana to Nice, France with his wife, Rixa, and their four young children.

Freeze is the author of the short story collections Dominant Traits and Invisible Men; and a collection of creative nonfiction Hemingway on a Bike. He has published stories, essays, and translations in numerous periodicals including Boston ReviewHarvard Review, and The Southern Review. His essay, "The Sharing Economy" appears is Issue 13 of Miracle Monocle. Freeze is an Associate Professor of creative writing at Wabash College and lives in Crawfordsville, Indiana and Nice, France.

Freeze and his wife make the bold decision to live in the heart of Old Nice for an entire year. Lured by the mediterranean city’s vibrant natural beauty, flourishing culture, and rich history, the family secures a 600-year-old “dive” in the Old Town. Despite knowing they will face financial insecurity, the challenge of squeezing six in a tiny un-renovated apartment, and many question marks, the Freezes are dedicated to facing the unknown in order to “live differently.” And live differently, they do! Complete with spearfishing, French Craigslist, and many other delightfully unexpected places I would have never expected this book to take me, the story is all at once humorous and a very informative cultural deep-dive. Freeze’s adventurous narrative speaks to the desire so many of us feel to travel outside of our home countries, and to fully immerse ourselves in another culture, despite all of the obstacles and risks. My copy of French Dive whispers to me, “Screw it, do it anyway.” 

Along this ride, I hit a few bumps. The author and his wife are academics, with budget being their number one inhibitor to maintaining their new life in costly Old Nice. As an aspiring teacher who does not and will probably never make much, I relate strongly with their dilemma. For a long time while reading Freeze’s story, however, I continued to detect several signs of privilege. Early in the book, he writes, “the primary impetus for our move was to find a way for our children to have a regular French immersion experience.” Despite their financial uncertainty, he and his wife feel secure enough to go through with the move anyway. Freeze is able to go because he is on sabbatical. He and his family are generally accepted in their new home because they know the language, are white, and are familiar with French culture, allowing them to integrate without many issues. To my great appreciation, as the book progresses, Eric Freeze captures and discusses these privileges in all their complexity. He acknowledges the ways in which his life in France have been smoother and more driven by choice than it might be for a person of a different color or culture, and I appreciate these reflections greatly for their depth and honesty. His openness and introspective writing style are what take this story beyond being the perhaps expected picture of a dreamy, minimalistic life in a glamorous France to poignant cultural commentary, as well. 

French Divehas the delightful ability to find an audience in many. If you are interested in studying culture, or in social commentary, Freeze gives wonderful glimpses into French culture and the lives of the people he meets (there are many). As an American, I love to analyze these similarities and differences along with him. For those who aspire to travel, this book takes you on a vivid trip to places you’ve probably never been, and just might give you a few sources of inspiration for accomplishing the move of your dreams on a tight budget. Most importantly, this book captures the true décroissant spirit, a sort of minimalism, wherein one lives simply by choice and is happy with it. The modern trend of minimalism is rooted in a basic desire to simplify life and find happiness in experiences, de-emphasizing the role of belongings. French Dive’s marriage with the philosophy of the décroissant speaks to our base desire to feel content wherever we are; I think it will inspire you, too, to live more with less. 

French Dive is available from Slant books in hardcover, paperback, and ebook format. 

CHRISTINA WOOSLEY is a poetry editor of Miracle Monocle.