Lisette is 18 years old and has arrived in Paris for a three-month stay during her gap year. She stays in a small apartment and her landlord, Madame Christophe, is a clairvoyant and owner of small dog Napoleon. Lisette loves fashion and vintage wears, often transforming clothes for herself. As she embarks on her travels around Paris, Madame Christophe books her in to French lessons with Madame Fontaine. Although Lisette is at first reluctant to attend, she soon gets to know some of the other students, artists from the nearby Marais district. Also from other countries, the small group have much in common. When Lisette almost has her heart broken the future of her lessons are in jeopardy. However she returns and perseveres, forging strong friendships with some.
On one of her many walks Lisette meets Hugo, an antique dealer from England. Hugo is a loveable, gentle young man and I enjoyed watching their relationship blossom and develop. Paris is the perfect setting for these two to meet, but Lisette’s firm sense of following the path she has planned may jeopardise their relationship from developing any further.
At the same time, Lisette is dealing with her mother back in Australia. While Lisette is loving her time in Paris, the reader questions whether this is her dream, or her mother’s. Lisette is the only child of a hard working, dedicated single mother. She did not know her father but recent events have meant she is learning more about him. Her family details unfold slowly throughout the course of the novel and in typical Catherine Bateson style, the reader is left to make their own mind up about many aspects. Lisette’s world is changing rapidly and she is torn between her plans (and one assumes her mother’s), and what her heart wants. Lisette must find her own path and make her own decisions.
I probably should declare my bias now. I love Paris; it is one of my favourite cities, and I love Catherine Bateson’s writing. So I had the entire package here, bliss! Bateson’s writing is clear and succinct. The recipient of an Australian Council of the Arts residency in Paris, she was able to explore the setting meticulously and conveys it beautifully in her writing. I was in Lisette’s Paris with her. The characters are believable but not all likeable, the reader gets to know them well. Bateson develops Lisette’s character beautifully as she grows and matures in Paris.
One of my favourite features of this book is the dialogue. It is well written, smooth and fluent. There is a range of different characters throughout the novel and their dialogue is consistently real and authentic. I also really love how Bateson allows the reader to form opinions and work out plot elements in their own minds, without dictating what she intends. I felt this was my story of Lisette in Paris and enjoyed every minute of it.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for supplying this book for review.