|A Stranger in Paris by Karen Webb|
Following on from her fantastic answers to my France et Moi questions yesterday (see here if you missed it), here is my review of Karen Webb’s first memoir, A Stranger in Paris.
As her university life finished, Karen followed her heart, and a lover who’d said, “move on and forget me”, to Paris, ready for a new adventure. Here she found herself thrust into a Parisian family with little chance to find her feet before taking the reins and looking after three young children. One super cool pre-teen, who thinks she is too old for an au-pair and who speaks better English than Karen does French, learning the difference between after school snack (gouter) and dinner, ironing Monsieur’s undies, and becoming ‘staff’ to grandma in her remote chateau are just some of the issues she has to face in the first few months. Luckily for Karen, her friend Jessica always seems to come up with a solution to her problems, right up until things go a little off-plan. I loved Jessica, although I’m not sure she was always the best influence.
Leaving the wealthy suburbs for the city, Karen has a close call with well-meaning (I guess) mafia, some no-hope boyfriends and finally a sympathetic boss who gave her the chance to stay and make a life for herself in Paris. For me this book highlighted the kindness of strangers, but also the odd behavior from those who should have been kinder. Living with nothing; no language, no money and no furniture, her determination to work hard to find her place had to be admired and even though she admits she wasn’t living the Parisian dream, she did at least have the courage to give it a go and never give up.
Karen certainly has a tale or two to tell of life in Paris in the 1980’s and it was a great read, unless you are a parent to an 18-year-old who is planning Paris as his next move in a few years – eek!
This book takes us through her first year working in Paris and in places becomes almost a study in cultural differences as she gives her insight into working among the French and what makes them tick. I found this especially interesting and it certainly left me wanting to read more. I’m glad to hear book two should be out later this year.
A Stranger in Paris is published by Impress Books and links to Amazon can be found below.