Saturday, November 13, 2010

Return to Paris

New York: Washington Square Press, c2003.
227 p.

Speaking of Paris...I just finished this book by Colette Rossant, the second of her memoirs that I've read. The first, Apricots along the Nile, I simply loved. It was about her Cairo childhood, and had that dreamy feeling of a golden childhood. In this volume, Rossant is talking about her teen/young adulthood years when she had to live with her grandmother in an uncongenial setting in France. It was an unhappy time for her, for many reasons: in Egypt she had gone to a convent school and identified as Catholic, but in France she discovered that her Jewish side was paramount. In post-war France, denying her Jewish identity was not something Rossant's grandmother was about to let her do. She was also thrown into this family that she didn't really know -- her brother and her grandmother had spent the war in France and were deeply affected. Colette had been trapped in Egypt during the war, and been largely unaffected. The clash of expectations and outlooks on life caused her no end of difficulty.

I liked this book, as it continued telling her journey from childhood to her discovery of her place in life. However, the teen years are never smooth or really ego-free for anyone, and this book suffered a little from that focus. Fighting to become an independent woman among her very traditional family made her interactions rough at times, but necessary for her development. Still, now and again I felt like I was reading Françoise Sagan, with her French devil-may-care femininity. Colette meets her American husband on his visit to France when she is quite young; they fall in love, and she waits for him to return. The next book in the series takes us to her life in New York, and I am looking forward to that one, perhaps more so than a story of adolescence.

Rossant is a food writer and a cook, so recipes are included among the stories; in the first book there were Egyptian recipes -- new to me and many vegetarian ones. In this volume, the recipes are mainly French, and quite meaty. Others could use those ones, though, and I'll stick with the simple salads! I love the way she ties food into her memories and how food plays such a major role in her relationships, both good and bad. She is proud of the meal she prepares for her future husband the first time they meet; she finally makes a kind of detente with her stepfather over gourmet meals in his hotel restaurants; the one person she has a close relationship with in her grandmother's house is the housekeeper, who lets her help in the kitchen.

The only real difficulty I had with this one was that the text jumped around a lot. I wasn't sure of the chronology in a few parts, and there were repeated elements in different chapters. Still, it is an enjoyable read, especially if you like food memoirs, or even just stories of women's lives in dramatic times. I wholeheartedly recommend the first book, Apricots on the Nile, and recommend this one if you are a fan of Paris or of Colette Rossant.


  1. Both books on Paris sound wonderful!

  2. carin - yes, I felt like I was on a bit of a vacation - but now I really want to go there


Thanks for stopping by ~ I always enjoy hearing your comments so please feel free to leave some!