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A FRENCH AFFAIR by Mary Blume

A FRENCH AFFAIR

The Paris Beat, 1965-1998

By Mary Blume

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-86301-4
Publisher: Free Press

A collection of essays on life in France, by an American who’s lived there since 1965. Everyone who’s ever been there, as well as some who haven’t, has an opinion to offer about France. If one goes by the number of books published about France in the United States, Americans, in particular, seem fascinated with the French way of life. Perhaps it’s the sophistication of the French, their seemingly effortless sense of style. Maybe it’s the food, or the wine, or the language, or the art. Or maybe, as Mary Blume so aptly demonstrates in the title of her book, a visit to France is like a love affair, remembered accordingly—with regret, with affection, with passion, frustration, or disgust. The essays in this collection were written over the course of Blume’s thirty years as a columnist at the International Herald Tribune, and offer a welcome perspective—that of an American who, while intimately familiar with France (and in particular with Paris), remains enough of an outsider to comment clearly and honestly on what she sees. The book is assembled in three sections. It opens with “Paris France,” which includes diverse commentary on the people, places, and customs of the city; continues with “Rites and Rules,” which illustrates some of the country’s idiosyncrasies; then concludes with “Words and Images,” in which the author expands her geographical area of reference in interviews with some of Europe’s most celebrated artists, writers, photographers, and filmmakers. Blume is a gifted journalist who sits back and lets her subjects describe themselves; in this way she evokes some marvelous responses from, for instance, Marguerite Duras, who says, in inimitably French fashion: “I have a certain idea of myself. One can call it pretentious, I don’t care. It’s what I think.” Ronald Searle’s whimsical drawings, interspersed throughout, are a perfect complement to Blume’s observations. Francophile seeks affair, for short or long-term? This book meets all requirements.