2017 Reviews · France · memoir · non-fiction

Book Review: Farewell my French Love by Nadine Williams

Title: Farewell My French Lovefarwell small

Author:  Nadine Williams

Published: April 24th 2017

Publisher: Harlequin Books Australia

Pages: 288

Genres:  Non Fiction, Memoir

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 3.5 stars

Journalist Nadine Williams is heart-broken following the untimely death of her French-born husband, Olivier. Long-time friend Jane, alarmed at Nadine’s despair, suggests a return to Europe to restore her joie de vivre: ending in Paris where Nadine’s love for Olivier was borne. Their journey from Barcelona to Paris is peppered with hilarious battles about food, fashion and politics, which challenge their friendship. But slowly the fun of travelling together in the glorious Loire Valley, Provence and Paris takes over.

And when, alone now in Paris, Nadine meets a French man who resembles Olivier, she is confronted by her grief once more as well as a conundrum: does she want another man to share her future or does she now prefer her freedom? Finally, Nadine begins to recover and to redefine herself as a widow and realises that loss is the legacy of women, as gratitude for memories replaces grief in her heart. 

My review:

Nadine Williams, an award-winning journalist who worked for Adelaide’s The Advertiser, has penned an insightful and heartfelt personal memoir, detailing her recovery from the loss of her beloved French-born husband Oliver. Farewell My French Love is a memoir that not only focuses on the individualised process of grief but it also highlights the importance of friendship, travel and food as an elixir in the period following a great loss. It is the sequel to Nadine William’s 2007 first book and memoir From France With Love, a book unfortunately I am yet to read. However, this does mean that Farewell My French Love can easily be read as a standalone book.

In 2013, following the loss of her French husband Oliver to cancer, Nadine Williams, along with her close friend Jane, embark upon a restorative journey to overcome Nadine’s overwhelming grief. They set their sights on two locales, Barcelona and Paris. What follows in this very personal memoir, is an adventure of sorts, as the two women negotiate a somewhat strained friendship while tasting all Spain and France has to offer. It is an incredible journey for the senses as Nadine and Jane share their adventures with local cuisine, fashion, visit historical landmarks and grapple with local culture and customs. The picturesque landscape provides Nadine with a welcome opportunity to break her cycle of melancholy. It also reactivates happier memories of her time in France with Oliver. When Jane leaves Nadine’s side to return home, Nadine has to face the world alone as a widow but she is not finished with her foray in Paris. Instead, she takes up French language classes and finds herself connecting with a band of women. These women help show Nadine the power of female friendship circles as a way of healing. With the French culture and way of life deeply rooted in her existence, Nadine begins to feel a newfound sense of power of living a life without the shadow of grief following her.

The Francophile in me immediately gravitated towards Farewell My French Love. I loved the stunning, very French cover so much that I didn’t realise this was a memoir on a mature woman’s journey into the process of grief. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to connect with Nadine, the narrator of this personal memoir but even though I haven’t been touched as closely as Nadine was by the loss of a very close loved one, I could still sympathise with her journey.

What I loved about Farewell My French Love is that rather than give in to grief and cushion herself with antidepressants, Nadine Williams recognised the extent of her grief and went about healing herself through the power of travel and a complete change of scenery. It was a brave move to embark on a travel adventure soon after her late husband’s death. It was wonderful to see France and Paris, a place that holds a strong place in my own heart, as a tonic to help Nadine overcome her sadness.

On the back cover, Farewell My French Love has been compared to Eat, Pray, Love. This is warranted somewhat as it is a memoir that provides the reader with a gastronomic journey into the mouth-watering local cuisines in both Barcelona and France. It showcases the fashions, rich culture, extensive history, stunning landmarks and breathtaking scenery of these two locations. This is intertwined with some honest vignettes on instances of the two friends eating at local cafes, shopping, hotels stops and navigating their way around the two countries.

Once Jane is removed from the journey the memoir makes a shift. This was a welcome departure, as I although I appreciated Jane’s support of Nadine, I was beginning to tire of the constant quarrels between the two ladies! Once Nadine settles in an apartment in Paris solo, we witness Nadine flourish as she takes those essential French language courses. When she connects with a group of women socially through her time in Paris, we observe Nadine’s grief process take full circle. A chance encounter with a stranger who reminds Nadine of her late husband Oliver, demonstrates she is not quite ready to let go of the memories or great love she holds dear. Still, the newfound autonomy she gains from this experience is a memorable moment in this moving memoir and a nice point to close the book off on.

Farewell My French Love is an earnest memoir that exposes the emotional and physical journey of grief. This engaging and well written memoir can also be read as an alternative travel guide to a destination I love, France. If you consider yourself a Francophile, this book is for you!

Farewell My French Love by Nadine Williams was published on 24th April 2017 by Harlequin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Farewell My French Love, Nadine Williams, visit here.

 

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