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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
In Paris With You
by Clementine Beauvais
Age Range: 14+
Eugene and Tatiana meet by chance on the Paris Metro. Eugene is going to his grandfather’s funeral while Tatiana is heading to her University where she is doing a PhD in art history.
Eugene and Tatiana had known each other ten years before. Seventeen-year-old Eugene was introduced to fourteen-year-old Tatiana by his friend Lensky, who was going out with Tatiana’s sister, Olga. Throughout the summer they spend together discussing literature, music, films and the world in general, Tatiana develops a crush on the suave and charming Eugene.
Neither is prepared for the emotions that rise to the surface as a result of this chance encounter. Eugene, now a business consultant, is apathetic and bored by life. Seeing Tatiana again he is well and truly smitten. Having rebuffed her all those years ago Eugene now sees an opportunity to right this wrong but his longing for Tatiana becomes an obsession with a determination to make her his. For Tatiana, her feelings are more complex. Whilst undeniably still attracted to Eugene she needs to find out from him what really happened to Lensky, who died after a tragic accident. She has also moved on with her life and has the prospect of a brilliant career move to America to take up a two-year post at the Museum of Modern Art. Tatiana must decide whether to give their relationship a chance or leave it firmly in the past.
What Beauvais greatly succeeds in doing here is to invent a narrative style that is highly approachable, with the constant communication between both main characters and the reader. It almost feels like she is directing the characters in a stage play allowing us to step inside their heads as they each give different perspectives on the emotional upheaval arising from meeting again.
Eugene does not come across as a pleasant individual – “Someone who's very soul was grey, someone so deeply nothing …” While Tatiana is more level-headed, aware that she has a bright future ahead but also torn between her feelings and memories of her ‘first love’.
Through a series of texts, emails and even Skype messages the raw emotion is palpable as they battle with their ardour. The narrative weaves back and forward in time giving context to their previous relationship and sometimes the narrator even steps into the story itself to interrogate Eugene about a past traumatic event.
Beauvais’ contemporary style makes it very readable and the way in which she cleverly changes the rhythm and pace of the text makes it incredibly powerful –
“No, two days is better than nothing;
two days is so much; it’s a glory, it’s a prize;
go tell a butterfly that two days is nothing.
Two days is twice as long as the
butterfly lives before it dies.”
This cannot have been an easy novel to translate but Sam Taylor has done a superb job in capturing the beautifully lyrical language which flows so effortlessly.
A bestseller in France, In Paris With You, was inspired by the 19th-century Russian poet Alexander Pushkin’s verse novel (1837) and Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin (1879). It’s a novel that will make an impression and a joy to read and one that will appeal to both teenagers and adults.