One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan - book review: Morgan draws together the threads of her story and ties them neatly together into a heartwarming – and surprising – love knot
Two troubled women from opposite sides of the Atlantic make a summertime escape to Paris and discover that the unlikeliest of friendships can be a catalyst for change... and new-found happiness.
Sarah Morgan – author of a string of warm, wise and witty novels – brings us a gorgeous but grittily real story of self-discovery and new beginnings set against the enchanting streets, sights and scents of the French capital in the glittering summer months.
Three generations of women have a tale of woe to tell in this emotion-packed odyssey which moves from a small town in Connecticut and the mean streets of London to an old, dusty and utterly beguiling book shop tucked away in a riverside courtyard.
Secrets and lies bubble slowly to the surface as events in the past are revealed and remembered, the power of friendship brings unexpected clarity, and the charms of Paris begin to work their healing magic.
For 48-year-old Grace Porter from the quaint town of Woodbrook in Connecticut, it’s the ultimate romantic evening… she has booked a table for two at a local restaurant to celebrate not just her 25th wedding anniversary but Valentine’s Day as well.
Uber-organised languages teacher Grace, who openly admits that if she lost her to-do lists her life would be over, is still head-over-heels in love with her handsome husband David, editor of the local newspaper and father to their 18-year-old daughter Sophie who is soon to fly the nest.
And she has an extra special surprise gift for David as well… the two of them are booked into a smart Paris hotel for a romantic, month-long summer holiday. But she never expected that David would have a surprise of his own – he wants a divorce.
Reeling from the shock but refusing to be broken, a devastated Grace takes the advice of her 90-year-old French and feisty grandmother Mimi and makes the bold decision to go to Paris alone. What Mimi doesn’t tell Grace is that Paris holds many secret memories… and not all of them are happy.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old hairdresser Audrey Hackett from London has left behind the heartache and frustration of living with her alcoholic mother and escaped to Paris for the summer. A job in a traditional old bookshop by the River Seine is her ticket to freedom, but with no money and no knowledge of the French language, suddenly a summer spent wandering the cobbled streets alone seems much more likely.
But then Audrey meets Grace, and everything changes… living in neighbouring apartments above the bookshop, the two women form an unlikely friendship.
Grace can’t believe how daring Audrey is, and Audrey can’t believe how cautious newly single Grace is. Against all the odds, they discover that they can offer each other just what they have both been missing.
They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding this unbreakable friendship might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them…
There is an impressive emotional depth to this beautiful tale about finding and honouring your true self as Morgan explores the dynamics and rewards of inter-generational connections, and the empowering warmth, strength and comfort of lasting friendships.
Paris itself is as much a star character in this French adventure as the obsessive Grace, the truculent Audrey and the wonderfully age-experienced and eternally optimistic Mimi. Each woman is forced to confront head-on their fears and foibles, finding not just their true selves, but hope and love where they least expect it. As Mimi so wisely remarks, ‘Being yourself is the one thing every person should excel at.’
In her trademark style, Morgan draws together the threads of her story and ties them neatly together into a heartwarming – and surprising – love knot that cannot help but leave a smile on the faces of her readers.
(HQ, paperback, £7.99)