Wednesday, 27 July 2016

We”ll Always Have Paris - Sue Watson

Is it ever too late for a second chance at first love?

About the book… 
A charming, moving second-chance love story for fans of Thursdays in the Park, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Last Tango in Halifax.
Does first love deserve a second chance?
When she was almost seventeen, Rosie Draper locked eyes with a charismatic student called Peter during their first week at art college, changing the course of her life forever. Now, on the cusp of sixty-five and recently widowed, Rosie is slowly coming to terms with a new future. And after a chance encounter with Peter, forty-seven years later, they both begin to wonder ‘what if’ . . .
Told with warmth, wit and humour, We’ll Always Have Paris is a charming, moving and uplifting novel about two people; the choices they make, the lives they lead and the love they share.
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About the Author...

Sue Watson was a journalist on women's magazines and national newspapers before working in a career in TV where she was a producer with the BBC. She has published six novels, her most well-known being Love, Lies and Lemon Cake. Originally from Manchester, Sue now lives in the Midlands and writes full time.

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My thoughts…

Where to begin?  It's no secret how much I love Sue Watson and her writing - she has characters that are engaging and so very true to life. Stories that provide the perfect amount of escapism but you don't have to totally suspend belief - they're realistic, touching and heart warming with a generous helping of fun and laughter to counter balance the more serious aspects.

We'll Always Have Paris is a story packed tightly with love, family. friendship, and hope.  It's about a family drifting through each day without a rudder to guide them.  Mike, husband to Rosie, father to daughters Anna and Isobel passed away, taken by the dreadful curse that is cancer; just six short weeks after diagnosis.  

Married for over forty years Rosie is struggling to get back to normal.  A year has passed and she realises that she has to start to regain some normality in her life, to do things for herself and begin living again.  She goes back to work in the florist shop she owns and runs with her daughters.  She finds just being out of the house is a big enough step for her to begin with - the thought of facing everyones sympathy face to face is too much so she takes a role in the background preparing the flowers for a big wedding.

A chance meeting whilst accompanying Anna to deliver the wedding flowers with a man, who as a teenager was the love of her life literally knocks Rosie for six. Peter is equally reeling, they haven't seen each other for over 40 years.

I can only imagine the tug of love played out in Rosie's mind as she was drawn to Peter and the 'perfect' memories of teenage love, then the heart stopping guilt because she feels she shouldn't be happy because the man she married is dead.  After all she's a widow and is still grieving.  Feeling immense guilt because she loved Mike, but he wasn't the love of her life. That was Peter, something Mike always knew but he still loved and cherished her all the same.  

The more I read of this book the more entranced I became.  Through this book Sue demonstrates how grief and grieving is a process.  There isn't a rule book and it can also be a positive thing.  Somehow, grief can empower people, giving purpose, focus as a result of reflection - this was certainly the case for Rosie.  

Grief affects us in different ways and takes differing amounts of time for people to come to terms with their loss. The wanting and needing to move on versus the guilt for being the one left behind enjoying life is all too apparent as Rosie struggles with her inner self.  At the same time she also has to consider the feelings of her daughters.   They're so busy looking out for their mother their own grief is on hold.  It's a complete role reversal that though well meant, in the end comes across as patronising - they have become the parent and she Rosie, the child.  

Through Rosie Sue demonstrates how we often look back at life through rose tinted glasses, remembering the good bits and erasing from our memories the worst bits.  It's easy to forget that young people have fewer commitments and don't often look beyond the here and now so everything was perfect then. Peter's re-arrival in Rosie's life is the catalyst, the turning point for Rosie.  When shrouded in grief she could only see herself as a widow.  With Peter back in her life, a friend to share happy memories with she finds the strength and begins the process of taking control of her life, stepping back into the shoes of her other roles.  That of Mother, grandmother and daughter. Connecting with her daughters on a much closer level, sharing her past and the events in her life that have shaped her. 

We'll Always Have Paris has a strong storyline that each and everyone of us can relate to.  It has family at the heart of it, led by a mother who always has her children's best interest at heart. The connection and understanding between mothers and daughters not always evident until they too become parents and face the same challenges - loving and protecting them, making decisions based upon experience. The older characters were perfect for this story about reflection, the dynamics of family life and taking second chances - with age comes maturity and understanding.  We all, I'm sure, can remember a time when we couldn't understand our parents reasoning and thought they was just being deliberately mean or awkward but as mature adults, perhaps as parents ourselves suddenly 'see the light' and get it.  It's a book that highlights the need to take chances, to live your dreams as we only have one life after all - life is too short and we shouldn't lose sight of our own hopes and aspirations whilst nurturing those of the people closest to us - it is still possible to achieve them whilst helping others achieve their own. Grief shouldn't be, but is often is the thing that gives us a kick up the bum to live our lives a little fuller.

I just loved this book, it's taken me three hours to try to put into words how much I loved it and I'm still not happy, I haven't done it justice.   It's such a thought provoking, reflective story told from the heart.  I smiled and savoured the raspberry macaroons - thank you Sue! Whilst at the same time laughing to myself as I thought about the many texts I receive off my daughter on a weekly basis, checking up on me - asking me where I am, what time I'll be home and telling me to ring when I arrive somewhere.  I'm not quite sure when I became the child and my daughter the mother but it has slowly happened in this house too!

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