Just back from two weeks in Paris, the most beautiful and evocative city on earth. (That should get some comments). It took me four hours to choose six postcards. Soft purple dusk at the Place de la Concorde. Art nouveau streetlamps glowing like bunches of luminous grapes. Notre Dame rising from the mist. The Opera Garnier, a dazzling jewel in a blaze of golden glory.
City of Light, City of Love. All those love-locks on the Pont des Arts must mean something, as the Mayor suddenly realised, ordering them to be removed lest the bridge take an unexpected dive into the Seine accompanied by a few startled lovers. (The taking of romantic selfies was proposed as an alternative but didn’t catch on.)
The Seine, and its bridges. The melancholic poem about love and time by Guillaume Apollinaire that every student of the French Baccalauréat knows by heart, ‘Le Pont Mirabeau’:
‘Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
Et nos amours…’
Their Mums and Dads know it too, and even the Pogues had a musical version (‘Below the Pont Mirabeau/Slow flows the Seine…’)
Is Paris THE romantic city in which to set a novel? Or end one? (would love to hear your views on that). Even the name of the place is enough to start the ball rolling–the legendary Paris whose love affair with Helen (‘the face that launched a thousand ships’) triggered the siege of Troy and ‘burnt the topless towers of Ilium’. That one ended in tears, and so did I, reading the final scene of Jojo Moyes’ ‘Me Before You’. Hands up all those who were sobbing unrestrainedly long before Lou gets to Paris? There’s more doomed Parisian love in the story of Quasimodo and Esmeralda, Marguerite, she of the camellias, and don’t even mention ‘Casablanca’. But how about other cities? I’ve just turned the last page of ‘The Antique Love’ by Helena Fairfax, a beautiful, tender romance, and had to reach for the Kleenex again when Penny ends up in Florence. Florence, Venice, the Lakes. Yes, Italy’s a big contender.
Or you could go for something generic, like a garden. Or a heath. Take ‘The Nightingale’ by Kristin Hannah, another Kleenex-destroyer. That ended in a garden (Isabelle’s), and a wet T shirt (mine). A garden in the Loire valley, bells pealing out for peace, the scent of jasmine on the air.
Having talked about endings before (March 2015, ‘Endings’) I won’t repeat the final lines of ‘Wuthering Heights’, describing the graves on the moor. I’d like to repeat them. Actually I’d like to intone them, à la Judi Dench, arms flung out, standing by the Bronte waterfall in a raging storm.
But how about another Big Bronte Moment, another garden?
‘I am coming!’ I cried. ‘Wait for me! Oh, I will come!’I flew to the door and looked into the passage: it was dark. I ran out into the garden: it was void.
‘Where are you?’ I exclaimed.
The hills beyond Marsh Glen sent the answer faintly back–‘Where are you?’ I listened. The wind sighed low in the firs: all was moorland loneliness and midnight hush.’
Oh Jane, Jane.
Readers (thank you!) of ‘Biarritz Passion’ may have caught the echoes in the last scene, not to mention other nostalgic references to thrilling prose written by the Great Ladies of Literature. You may, for example, remember Caroline’s first encounter with Colin Firth Edward Rayburn in the grounds of Willowdale. In Book Two of the French Summer Novel series, ‘Hot Basque’, the final scene blows a kiss to Mrs Gaskell’s ‘Wives and Daughters’.
Which brings me nicely to the news that it’s on promotion next week! ‘Hot Basque’, that is. FREE! Get your FREE (yes!) download on Amazon from August 3rd to 7th !(NB Amazon operates on Standard Pacific Times so check before you click)
Talking about writing that final scene in ‘Hot Basque’ once more, I was looking for a suitably dramatic setting, somewhere that would speak to readers fanning their cheeks and holding their breath for Jill and Antoine.
I chose, er, Edinburgh airport.
Hey, look on the bright side. It could have been Stansted.
‘Hot Basque’ is available on Amazon: