I read two Paris based books this week. An agent sent me The Ghost of Saint-Michel by Jake Lamar to read for work. Lamar is a former writer for Time Magazine who moved to Paris several years ago. His latest book is about a 62 year old African-American expat, Marva Dobbs. Marva has lived in France for decades. She owns one of the most popular restaurants in Paris and is married to very successful Frenchman. Their daughter is a recent Harvard grad and loves all things American, which drives her mom crazy.
Marva has a short, intense affair with the very good-looking North African number 2 chef, Hassan. He is 28. One day the police tell Marva that Hassan has gone into hiding. He is wanted for a terrorist act. Everything falls apart.
I really enjoyed it until the big plot hole at the end. I don't think the thriller plot quite works but I loved spending time with the characters.
I read Paris Hangover by Kirsten Lobe after reading an article in New York Times about the rash of expat French novels. Like Jake's book I enjoyed reading about Paris but I was not a fan of the protagonist named Klein. Yes, last name only. It could be because she is off to Paris so suddenly and we don't know much about the life she is leaving behind. All we know is she's tall, hot, rich and really wants to get married and have a baby. The rich French boyfriend she left behind in NYC doesn't want to have kids. Klein is obsessed with her clock and sleeps with half of Paris. Some of the sex scenes were pretty funny. Of course Klein learns what's important. However it happens so late in her "arc" it rings false.
There are some dead on observations about French culture. At times you just want to book the next flight out and take a trip. I wish Klein had more depth. She seems a little immature for 35. Maybe I was expecting too much from a fun chick lit book.
I read an interview with Lobe and she said about 90 percent of the things in the book really happened. Now that is funny. Like Lamar she now lives in Paris full time. The two books and writers could not be more different but they both have a passion and deep love for Paris.
I thought it was interesting in seperate interviews they both talk about how the definition of success is different there. Lobe is a former designer for Calvin Klein and Oscar de la Renta. She traded in her 2,000 sqaure foot loft in Tribeca for 550 square foot apartment in Paris. She paints full time and no one there thinks that's weird. Lamar said as a writer, people don't ask him how many books he has sold. Writing is considered a worthy thing to do with one's time, whether you sell a million copies or not.
Speaking of designers, I am meeting a friend at the Prada store to check out the "Waist Down" exhibit during lunch.
Yesterday was a really good day. I am trying to figure out this whole Rome thing and I received some excellent advice. For breakfast I reconnected with an American expat freelance journalist I met in Rome. He is in the States for a couple of days, then going back to Rome. He has lived there for 6 years and speaks fluent Italian. For drinks I went to L'Ermitage to meet with one of my favorite people in the biz. She has such a great perspective on what we do out here. She is British and broke it down. Regarding Rome, maybe I am being too pragmatic. Both of them gave me some things to think about.