by Emmy Curtis [Air Force]
A few years ago I read a delightful Young Adult book called Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins. Perkins’s Paris was shiny and bright, just as it so often is in books and movies. It is the Paris of a visitor, not a resident; a Paris that is romantic and old and perfect and that looks great in a Woody Allen movie. It is the Paris I prefer, by a long shot, but it is not the real Paris.
Paris, much like Virginia, is for lovers
I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You shows the Paris I know. As I started this book, I found myself taken by the similarities to a situation I found myself in years ago: a British woman, married to a French man and living in Paris.
The book is about an ex-pat British artist, Richard, who is having an affair with an American woman, and finds himself distraught when she leaves him to marry a British chef. It is in the midst of this heartbreak that his French wife, Anne-Laure, discovers the affair, and when she leaves him, he suddenly realizes what real heartbreak feels like and endeavors to win her back.
This is a story that a friend may tell you about a friend of a friend. It has no plot point, no twists, no real surprises, but it almost documents the machinations of relationships, through betrayals, disappointments, and victories. It was an easy, if mildly uncomfortable read. Because the situation is so prosaic, you can almost place yourself in Richard’s life and empathize with his feelings and reactions (even if you’ve never considered cheating on your significant other!).
Paris is an esthetically pleasing city, no doubt, but this book correctly depicts it as I found it all those years ago. A little claustrophobic, a little unforgiving to any feeling you have other than romantic love. The city envelops you like a shroud when you are down, pressing you further and further into a funk, which I thought the author showed perfectly in her narrative.
author Courtney Maum
As a Brit, there were some wince-inducing vocab slips, enough that they sometimes took me out of the story. The American author introduced a La-Z-Boy into a UK middle-class household, which would be very unusual (yes they are sold there, but are not at all prevalent), and had British people talking about ‘windshields’ (they’re windscreens in the UK!). There were several other instances that I noticed enough at the time to think, “What?”
Anne, the French wife and lawyer, introduces herself as “Anne-Laure de Bourigeaud, Esquire” to another French person. Esquire as a denotation of one having a legal degree is uniquely American. No way would a French person, let alone a woman (in Europe it denotes a man of ‘gentle’ birth), say that.
So for me, the author definitely showed an American perspective in the narrative although, other than Richard’s mistress, there was only one minor character (shown on the page one time) who was American. It really made the book US-centric, when in fact a book about an Englishman and a French woman, set in France, shouldn’t be. And sometimes that interrupted my enjoyment of it.
Still, this was an accomplished debut. It is definitely a book to put on your reading list…especially if you’re American!
Maum, Courtney. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You. Touchstone, June 2014.
Courtney Maum in Publisher’s Weekly (“what’s so wonderful about life: these up-and-down moments”)
Courtney Maum talks marriage (it’s “freakin’ awkward”) and first-novels in Metro
Buy I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
About the Reviewer:
Emmy Curtis is a US Air Force wife, an editor and a romantic suspense writer. An ex-pat Brit, she quells her homesickness with Cadbury Flakes and Fray Bentos pies. She’s lived in London, Paris and New York, and has settled for the time being in North Carolina. When not writing, Emmy loves to travel with her husband and take long walks with their Lab. All things considered, her life is chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny. And if you get that reference…well, she already considers you kin.
Emmy, I love your perspective on Paris — and the idea that it’s a city “unforgiving” to any feeling other than romantic love. Sheesh, I’d be a goner.
I enjoyed “I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You,” especially the humor. I laughed out loud at so many points. Now, when I spend a whole day in grubby workout clothes (without having actually worked out), I think of the line, “In Paris, even the homeless wear proper pants.”
I could see the humor in it, but frankly I’d known SO many whiney British guys exactly like him, that I wanted to slap him upside the head with the book! In so many places she did nail the perfect, slightly annoying English man of a certain age. And if you’re an English man of a certain age reading this blog, I apologise (with an s instead of a z) for my generalization!!
I’m tempted to read this book just to get to know the real Paris. I used to be really unimpressed by France until I spent a week in Normandy there last year. Now I’m a France fan girl! My visit was rainy and cold and I could still feel the magic of the place. Unfortunately, my only taste of Paris was driving through it during rush hour traffic. Haha!
*Winces* Paris at rush hour – yes, you’re bringing back more memories for me! Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon also details a lovely, but not white-washed version of Paris that I loved. I usually recommend that to everyone! Thank you for reading the review!