Title: One Summer in Montmartre
Author: Teagan Kearney
Genre: Commercial Women’s Fiction
First Published: 2014
Rating: 5/5 stars
I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book so I could give an honest review.
One Summer in Montmartre is a commercial women’s fiction novel written by British author Teagan Kearney and it comprises of two alternating stories set in two different time periods, but they contain many similarities, both in theme and problems the characters have to confront with.
The first and main story revolves around Anna Seeger, an Englishwoman, a freelancer in graphic art, faithful wife and devoted mother. She is struggling with severe depression caused by the loss of her son Jeremy in a car accident and also the lack of communication with her workaholic husband Gregory and her remaining child, the independent and rebellious eighteen-year-old Ingrid. Though Anna was always a submissive wife because she wanted to avoid conflict with her dominating husband, Jeremy’s death increased the gap between them. They didn’t talk about serious issues as they should have; instead, they had plain conversations as if they were two strangers trying to be polite to each other.
The event that determines Anna to do something else than mourning and living in the past is the discovery of an old letter hidden in the back of the frame of an impressionist painting she and Greg received as a wedding gift from her father-in-law. This painting that depicts “a large bunch of flowers in a vase on a windowsill” (Loc. 86) was very dear to her because it gave her tranquillity in the hardest moments of her life and it fascinated her every time she looked at it. The letter was written by Luc Marteille, a less known Impressionist artist, and it was addressed to a woman named Hélène, who was his love interest. Anna wants to find more information about this French woman, the artist and whether they had an affair or not. This powerful wish will determine her and Ingrid to go to Paris and find the truth. However, the City of Lights is full of surprises and unexpected experiences for both mother and daughter, especially when the young handsome painter Jean Paul and his ironic uncle François enter the scene.
The second story brings us back to a different Paris – in the summer of 1873 – where we meet Luc Marteille, an Impressionist painter who is beginning to gain recognition from other painters of the same movement. He is a family man, who loves his two children and his sick wife (she supports him both materially and mentally). However, his values will collide with his sudden passion for a beautiful peasant girl, who came to Paris to pose as a model in her cousin’s place. Will Luc resist his heart’s calling or will he take Hélène as his mistress? Will she forget the fact that she is betrothed to a farmer from her village and about to get married? Read and you will find out!
The two stories are fast-paced, easy to read, the characters are relatable – reflective, impulsive, ironic, conscious of their regrets and mistakes. Whether it’s Anna or Luc, they are caught between their inner desires and the shame of being unfaithful to their spouse, but they also compare the person who set their heart on fire with the husband or wife with whom they’ve spent so many years together. How similar people are when they fall in love, desire someone or think about the consequences of an affair! They make me realise that costumes change as centuries go by, but people remain pretty much the same.
“People are either on their best or their worst behaviour on holiday. An exotic, different location can bring out our finest qualities, or it can remove normal restraints and barriers.” (Loc. 1070) One Summer in Montmartre makes you meditate on life, loss, love, routine, happiness and where the barriers among them start to break. Enjoy!