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Sunday, 10 March 2013

"Paris at my feet" (from Les Misérables)

The Novel:
Anna Trent (pronounced Tron in French) suffers an accident in a chocolate factory in England where she works. She loses a couple of toes and in order to get back on her feet, her erstwhile French teacher Claire - who herself is extremely poorly -  suggests she takes some time to get herself together and work for Thierry, master chocolatier, and also Claire's amour from younger days. Paris  certainly calls....
Anna settles into a tiny apartment high above the rooflines of Paris, which she shares with Sami, an operatic costumier who brings a sense of exoticism to the story (as though diving in and out of chocolate making and eating delicious food isn't enough!). The story deftly weaves its way through the quartiers of Paris, as love and care blossom and we follow Anna as she experiences an "EXTREMELY foreign experience".

Paris, the City:
Come, follow us to Paris via this  beautiful tale of romance, heartache and chocolate:

"Friday afternoon in early July on the Ile de la Cité was hot and sticky and bustling with tourists. Away from the formal 'placement' of the organised streets and wide boulevards, the far corner betrayed its twisty, hugger mugger mediaeval origins; little alleyways springing hither and thither; roads narrowing to nearly nothing or ending abruptly at the wall of one of the great churches." Tempted to visit....?

Author Interview:
To mark the publication of this fabulous new book, TripFiction poses some questions to author Jenny Colgan

TF - You warmly evoke Paris in your new novel – so much so that we are left yearning to visit again. How have you come to know the city so well? 

JC - My brother moved there when he was in his early twenties and lived there for a long time so I used to hop across all the time. Now I have two friends who spend a lot of time there and I love going to see them from Antibes, where I live. It's a beautiful trip on the TGV. 

TF - You describe how Laurent and Anna set off down a tiny maze of alleys, heading for a restaurant that only has a mushroom over the door to indicate an eating establishment; it is somewhere only Paris insiders would know about. Does this restaurant exist and how did you discover it? 

JC - It certainly does, and it's amazing- we were taken there by friends, I can't even remember where it is. We ate nine mushroom based courses. Extraordinary place. 

TF - You share so much wonderful information about the production of chocolate. Where did you learn about the process? 

JC - Haha, thank you but very boring research I'm afraid; books and the internet. Alas, I never got to go to a factory! 

TF - The story is in part romance, but it also has a much darker edge it to it. What was your inspiration for the storyline? 

JC - Well, I really did it backwards - what would make Anna go? It's so hard to throw up your whole life and change everything, really difficult. So I thought someone must have inspired her to go and Claire's story came out of that really: when I started the book I didn't envisage Claire having such a large role. 

TF - How did you choose the names for your characters? 

JC - With enormous difficulty. Every writer will say this, it's a great question. You want names that tell you a bit about a character but not too much. I chose Claire because it sounds the same in both English and French. Finding a boy's name was quite difficult because a lot of the male names I really like in french sound a bit feminine to english ears- Clément, Florian, Baptiste. So we experimented with a few and settled on Laurent. Anna started off with another name, I can't remember what it was now. Actually funny story: my daughter is called Delphine and when I told my writer friends two of them went 'oh, really?" So this year both Jill Mansell and Maggie O' Farrell have books coming out with Delphines in them. I'm really pleased! 
A huge thank you to Jenny for answering our questions.

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