This was one of my much anticipated Summer Reads. Paris Mon Amour is the debut novel by Isabel Costello the author of the rather excellent The Literary Sofa. I do love a good book cover and I think this one is beautiful. The image is an accurate pictorial representation of the novel. If the cover and the promise of a story of love, betrayal and reckless passion set against the backdrop of Paris isn’t enough to tempt you, then I’m sure the opening sentence will be. ‘The first time I caused terrible harm to those I loved was an accident. The second is the reason I’m here’. This sets the scene and is the first revelation of the back story which lends weight to everything which follows.
Alexandra is married to Phillippe and living in Paris. He has given her the life she thought she would never have, and yet she suspects he is seeing someone else. Along comes Jean-Luc who happens to be 23 and also the son of Philippe’s best friend and his cooler than ice wife Genevieve. From their first magnetic encounter it is clear this won’t be the last. What follows is an obsessive desire, that has devastating effects on both families.
We first meet Alexandra enduring an uncomfortable supper with her mother. Her mother has just shared her opinion that Phillippe has another woman, a clear indication of their complex and fraught mother-daughter relationship. Alexandra’s mother appears at different points throughout the story leading the reader ever closer to the truth of the terrible harm alluded to in the opening sentence.
This story is so good in so many ways. It is told in the first person so as readers we experience at first hand Alexander’s inner turmoil. Although the relationship that Alexandra and Jean-Luc go on to have is extreme, it is handled carefully and tenderly. Their passion is believable and described in such a way that although sometimes explicit, is never sordid or corny. The story is layered in such a way, that as a reader you know it will reach a crescendo. With such burning passion and troubled relationships, an explosive outcome feels inevitable, and yet when it came I was still taken by surprise.
This novel is sultry and seductive and just a little bit dangerous. I loved that it was about a forty something women too, an age if not quite a situation I could identify with. Isabel Costello’s love and knowledge of Paris is evident throughout. The Paris she writes of feels believable and true.
This novel did not disappoint, it met all my summer reading requirements but I know I could have read it any time of year and enjoyed equally as much. I finished it satisfied with the outcome and planning a trip to Paris!