Goodbye, Paris by Anstey Harris

Goodbye, Paris by Anstey Harris

Anstey Harris comes to the blog today with a contemporary woman’s fiction, a story of a journey to the redefinition of a place and a life in

Goodbye, Paris

I had a difficult time with this book, or actually just what I feel about it, and that leads to all sorts of interesting points. I had a difficult time not wanting to hit the heroine, Grace, over the head repeatedly when it came to her ‘love’ for David, and her incessant (through most of the book) habit of ‘when it is us’ refrain. Emotionally, Grace was little more than a child, with enormous musical talent, an utter inability to socialize, the ability to craft stringed instruments (Violins, Violas, Cellos and Bass) which was so very intriguing and interesting, and a habit of living for the ‘next’ moment, while ignoring the present and what is in front of her. Told in Grace’s perspective, the story tends to whitewash or pillory moments, depending on where her focus lies, and that left me with a sense that vacillation and self-flagellation, along with a refusal to see that which was obviously wrong for her- making her as a person, one that requires a great deal of patience during the progression of the story.

An only child with a rare talent for music, her parents sacrificed much to provide her with lessons, opportunities and a place in a conservatory in Paris with a renown instructor. Overly sheltered and coddled, with little interest in friends, a social life or anything away from her music, Grace found a camaraderie amongst the students, making a best friend and finding a boyfriend, all during the stress and struggle to ‘improve’ in the eyes of a famous instructor, working hard to become worthy of the place she’s in. So ready to take the word of those who would belittle rather than uplift and teach, she’d hit the point of breaking – and walks out after a tirade – leaving school before the year is out to head home and hide away – working only on achieving ‘perfection’, and reinforcing the negative heard in her year at conservatory: a loss that manifests itself in her inability to play where others may hear.

Realigning her life, she takes courses and does apprenticeships to learn to craft instruments: now with her own shop, a fairly steady set of clients, and starting to make a name for herself, and then the unthinkable happens. Well, it’s really only unthinkable if you are spending most of the past eight years being the ‘side dish’ to a man’s main course. See, after meeting David at a party given by friends, one which his wife left early, Grace was swept off her feet: unaware of David’s wife or life in France, and full of romantic dreams. Eight years on, a mobile phone video of David’s lifesaving rescue of a woman who fell onto the metro rail in Paris has hit the news, and it’s clear that he isn’t alone in the city. What starts as a hashtag on twitter for #herosmysterieux becomes the key that will shatter Grace’s illusions of ‘someday’, and ‘I love you’ with the reality that she, the mistress, is NOT the only one, that the children with his wife are his life, and his very successful and strong wife knows about the women (plural) and there is a new, young and determined to become pregnant female in the ‘quiet apartment’ she believed was for them.

Were it not for Grace’s near-constant defense of David, and her repeated habit of putting herself, her choices, even her small moments of living to the side to be ever-available to him, even when he flits in and out on his schedule, never hers, I wouldn’t have been so frustrated. I can relate to the single-minded focus on the task at hand, and in her own shop and working, she is that. But this near obsession with ‘when we are together’ focus and mantra that she repeats that also helps to tether her to her own self-doubts, shyness to the point of recluse, and a long-buried anger that hasn’t really any focus, it takes a dramatic and near frenetic series of events, with two people who alternate between admiring her and prodding a hero, she grows up – at forty. Finally. And is able, with reconnecting with her past, and playing with the future of the music, able to learn just who Grace is, as she starts down a new path.

The description, emotions and writing here are lovely, and I wish that I could unreservedly recommend this as a must read, but I had such a struggle with Grace as she presented herself, while so wholly intrigued and delighted with the pieces of music mentioned, the instruments: crafted and in process, tone, feel, scents – that a whole new world opened up….Harris brings a sense of Grace’s actual love of the music, and a sense of the dedication and single-mindedness needed to achieve mastery in playing or crafting that it almost (but not quite) balanced that near-obsessive approach to her relationship, as unworthy of the time it was given. If you can (and are willing) to search for your patience with severe immaturity and naiveté from a woman who should have more of a clue, the journey will be worth that patience.

Goodbye, Paris by Anstey Harris

Title: Goodbye, Paris
Author: Anstey Harris
Genre: Contemporary Woman's Fiction, Setting: Britain, Setting: France, Setting: Italy
Published by: Touchstone
ISBN: 1501196502
Published on: 7 August, 2018
Format:eARC
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Pages: 288
Audio Length: 8 Hours: 57 minutes
Rated: three-half-stars
Heat: One FlameHalf a Flame

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Jojo Moyes meets Eleanor Oliphant in Goodbye, Paris, an utterly charming novel that proves that sometimes you have to break your heart to make it whole.

Grace once had the beginnings of a promising musical career, but she hasn't been able to play her cello publicly since a traumatic event at music college years ago. Since then, she's built a quiet life for herself in her small English village, repairing instruments and nurturing her long- distance affair with David, the man who has helped her rebuild her life even as she puts her dreams of a family on hold until his children are old enough for him to leave his loveless marriage.

But when David saves the life of a woman in the Paris Metro, his resulting fame shines a light onto the real state of the relationship(s) in his life. Shattered, Grace hits rock bottom and abandons everything that has been important to her, including her dream of entering and winning the world's most important violin-making competition. Her closest friends--a charming elderly violinist with a secret love affair of his own, and her store clerk, a gifted but angst-ridden teenage girl--step in to help, but will their friendship be enough to help her pick up the pieces?

Filled with lovable, quirky characters, this poignant novel explores the realities of relationships and heartbreak and shows that when it comes to love, there's more than one way to find happiness.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

 

About Anstey Harris

Anstey Harris teaches creative writing for Canterbury Christ Church University and in the community with her own company, Writing Matters. Harris’s short stories have been widely published in anthologies and online and she was the winner of the H.G. Wells Short Story Prize in 2015. She was recently shortlisted in the National Gallery Short Story Competition and chosen by The Word Factory to read her short story, “A Hairy Tale”, alongside A.L. Kennedy at their June literary salon in 2016. She is a three-time winner of the Faber Academy’s #QuickFic competition. Anstey lives in Kent, England, and is the mother of the singer-songwriter (famous for her stint on The X-Factor) Lucy Spraggan.

 

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