Monday, 10 April 2017

My (Part-Time) Paris Life

I'm such a sucker for the I Moved to Paris memoir genre. I have been since Sarah Turnbull kicked it all off back in 2004 with Almost French. I routinely buy them on first sighting. I don't always get to reading them right away, although sometimes I do. I knew as soon as I saw that beautiful blue cover last year that I would be buying My (Part-Time) Paris Life as soon as I found it in a shop. And so I did. Then last month I even got to reading it.

Lisa Anselmo lived a life as an Exective Creative Director in Publishing in New York. Now I don't know what that might entail on a daily basis, but it was well paid. She enjoyed twice annual trips to Paris. You can do that from New York I guess. It's much harder to imagine twice annual trips to Paris from Australia- not that I wouldn't love to do that, but the logistics and the expense is astronomical. I have made four trips to Paris since I fell under her spell in 1998- people here think that's a lot! I made back to back trips in 2013 and 2014 and people thought I was going to Paris "all the time". If only that were true.

My (Part-Time) Paris Life is really two stories weaved into one. There is Lisa's backstory- her relationship with her mother and her sister as she was growing up, and her relationship with her sister after her mother died. Lisa's mother was a major force in her life, and she feels her absence particularly strongly. The other story is Lisa's relationship with Paris, from her first trip in the early 80s as a 16 year old schoolgirl, to an impromptu trip in 2002 (Australians can only dream of return tickets to Europe for $335) when she really fell in love with Paris, after which she took more frequent trips, living a "revolving door life", and eventually a decade or so later came to buy an apartment in Paris after her mother's death and move there.
Paris realigned me.
Lisa ponders for some time about whether to make the move. Understandable really- moving continents is a bit of a big deal. I think my breath actually stopped with her crabs in a bucket analogy on the first page. 

Maybe it's finally leaving that dead-end job, extracting yourself from a bad marriage, starting your own business- whatever it is, there's a point when you realise you can't keep living this way: your head spins all day, you don't sleep anymore, you can't shake an overwhelming sense of dread. The only thing that keeps you going is the dream of something better, something more. 

What a luxury to have a transportable job, whatever it is that her job entails. Lisa was a bit too coy on the details of buying her apartment- how much was it? Readers of this book likely have their own moving to Paris dream, let us feel how realistic or not that may be. The apartment she bought was $150, 000 cheaper than others she was looking at, but she was able to pay cash for it, some "hundreds of thousands of dollars". I'm not sure if I'm ever going to have that kind of buying power.
This apartment was proving to be more than a place to live; it was teaching me how to live. 
Readers of any Look-at-me-I-Moved-to-France memoir will know that there are always plumbing problems. And Lisa had major plumbing problems. Plumbing problems so major that they involved lawyers and years of her life. Sadly we are left hanging about the resolution of the plumbing woes and I had to go to Lisa Anselmo's blog to find out what happened with the plumbing.

But could I walk away from everything I knew, even when it wasn't making me happy anymore?

I did get a bit tired with Lisa's constant questioning about whether she deserved a life in Paris. Repeatedly asking "Who do you think you are?" Most of us would love this opportunity. Please just get on with it. I like to imagine that people who live in Paris all have wonderful lives. I know that isn't true. But I still remember my shock on my first visit to Paris when I saw depressed commuters on the Metro looking glum about their daily lives. Bored even. Bored. In Paris. I can't even imagine.

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog  


Paulita said...

Louise, Like you, I love a good memoir about people running away to Paris, or just France. The first one that I remember reading was A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. But I actually had fallen in love with Aix en Provence years before during just an overnight stop there.
Thanks for the review. I'll probably pass on this one.
And thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

Anonymous said...

I've never read any running away to Paris books at all. It seems to be a particular genre, doesn't it- matched perhaps by running away to Greek Island memoirs. Thanks for the review.