Goodbye, Paris by Anstey Harris
Published: August 2018
Grace once had the beginnings of a promising musical career, but she hasn’t been able to play her cello publicly since a traumatic event at music college years ago. Since then, she’s built a quiet life for herself in her small English village, repairing instruments and nurturing her long- distance affair with David, the man who has helped her rebuild her life even as she puts her dreams of a family on hold until his children are old enough for him to leave his loveless marriage.
But when David saves the life of a woman in the Paris Metro, his resulting fame shines a light onto the real state of the relationship(s) in his life. Shattered, Grace hits rock bottom and abandons everything that has been important to her, including her dream of entering and winning the world’s most important violin-making competition. Her closest friends–a charming elderly violinist with a secret love affair of his own, and her store clerk, a gifted but angst-ridden teenage girl–step in to help, but will their friendship be enough to help her pick up the pieces?
Grace and her boyfriend David are heading home from a wonderful concert in Paris when a woman in the metro faints and nearly dies on the tracks. David’s rescue spawns a media frenzy — who is this mysterious hero, and can we figure it out with CCTV recordings? Through a series of twists and turns we come to know Grace: her loneliness and seclusion, the silent trauma of her past, the humor, heart, and passion for music. Her violin shop, where she makes violins, violas, and cellos for musicians of all ages, is doing well enough that she can create a cello specifically for a world-wide competition for makers. When life spins out of control, she relies on the support and encouragement of her unlikely duet of friends, Nadia and Mr Williams, to set her back on her feet and take the spotlight.
Closing out the year with a five-star read, my seventh for 2018! The librarians have a genre study book club and this holiday season we did a Secret Santa-style event: we expressed our favorite kinds of books and authors to someone whose taste is different from ours, and they recommended titles. An exercise in readers advisory techniques! And my Secret Santa nailed it: she recommended this book, and I was over-the-moon.
Grace’s naivete felt so authentic to me, her emotional and mental abuse incredibly powerful and heartbreaking. As someone who has also suffered similar past traumas, I sat there reading, thinking oh no, Grace, you have no idea, oh no, what an awful way to learn. She’s such a strong and capable woman, and I adored Nadia — her anger, her passion, her need for validation and respect — and Mr Williams — his spunk, his intelligence, and overall gentlemanly demeanor — for their unwavering, unconditional support of Grace through all her trials and triumphs. What a powerful, moving little novel.
I rarely find characters that feel like kindred spirits. I’ve been lucky enough to meet both Grace and Eleanor in one year. Grace’s talent and gift for music touched my soul. For anyone who has loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, for anyone whose heart broke over the moral complexities of Me Before You, for anyone who wants to read and experience the sweeping power of music through words — this is the book for you.