The Cult of Nostalgia
This debut novel is an eclectic multi-period mix of romance, comedy, travelogue and an invocation of Jazz Age literary Paris. In Noughties San Francisco, we encounter Carly, a rainbow-haired Life Coach, lapsed vegan and “fashion terrorist”, who soon sets off to Paris in pursuit of her boyfriend, Simon, who has absconded, apparently in the grip of a new-age cult. Simon has taken with him a memoir composed by Carly’s late great-uncle, Edward, recalling his time among the American expatriates in Paris in the 1920s. On hand to help is Simon’s dreadlocked, skateboarding brother, Josh (a likeable lad) and a host of other larger-than-life characters.
Back in 1963, we are left wondering why the middle-aged Edward should be so reluctant to pay a return visit to Paris. The reasons for this reluctance are gradually revealed through the excerpts from his memoir that splice with the other two narratives. In 1925, young Edward had gone to Paris to join his former schoolfriend, Ernest (Hemingway), and had loitered on the edge of literary society in his company along with rising star, Scott Fitzgerald, and his wife, Zelda.
The three strands do not always blend seamlessly, and at times the narrative feels like a series of sketches, with some overindulgence of eccentric minor characters and situations. The early scenes have a rather “sitcom” feel and the tone can be uneven.
The mood becomes more serious as the story progresses and disappointment and potential tragedy loom for some, along with a proposed solution to a literary mystery and a chance for the restless Carly to find her true path in life.
The blurb led me to expect quirky, and this novel was indeed quirky – but it moved me, it made me smile, and above all, it made me want to buy a ticket for Paris!