Tensions of the “Odd Couple” a highlight says Arts critic Samela Harris

There is really only so much I can say about my own book, Farewell My French Love, released today into all good bookshops Australia-wide.

So, I have called on a former colleague, arts critic and blogger extraordinaire, Samela Harris to read my book and write a review without fear of favour. And it is interesting how other people view my story – that it’s not so much about sadness, loss and grief, but about friendship, about Jane and my travels together and our clashes over food.

Before you begin, I want to add that Samela was the good mate who asked me a second time (the first time I refused unable to get out of my own gloom) to attend a Lyceum Club luncheon in early 2013.  The timing was right, and as I record in my book, the Lyceum Club, in the company of women, played a part in my recovery – particularly its fantastic international meetings in Perth and Europe.  Four years later, we are still fellow Lyceum members.  So, here are Samela’s thoughts about Farewell My French Love.

Renowned Adelaide arts and literature critic Samela Harris

“Nadine Williams has loved and lost. She diarised her love story with the sweet French man of her dreams in a lively travel book called From France With Love. Now, following the sad death by cancer of her husband, Olivier, she has diarised her loss with Farewell My French Love, another lively travel memoir which retraces her steps, this time with her girlfriend, Jane. Of course, there is no cure for grief save for the gentle passage of time, but Williams’s pro-active approach at least yields substantial distraction – and, serendipitously, an entertaining study on how not to choose your travelling companion. Thus the story of the widow on the recherche du temps perdu road trip turns unexpectedly into a contemporary Laurel and Hardy adventure, for Williams and her companion are extraordinary  opposites. Williams is a sensualist and a passionate lover of beautiful French food. Her companion has a decidedly ascetic approach to food. Epicurean Williams drools over luscious full breakfasts while abstemious Jayne wishes no more than half a croissant. Jane eschews evening wines and lingering three-course French dinners, preferring a spartan apple in the hotel room.  Williams had not anticipated this impasse in an otherwise agreeable and long-standing friendship; but she refuses to let it get in the way of the joy of French cuisine. Toute seule, she bravely hits grand dining rooms taking solace from the spirit of Olivier who first introduced her to these gastronomic pleasures.

The friendship between skinny Jane and ample Williams is tested by these and other cultural differences.  Williams love to shop. Jane is frugal. Williams is mad on French queens. There is nothing she does not know about them and she wants to impart it all in torrents of enthusiasm both to her companion and on the pages of the book. Jane finds it de trop and keeps wandering off alone to experience a less fact-filled aspect of the country. They have a spat. Or two. It is quite an emotional roller coaster for Williams but she has deep resources of good-nature. The unlikely pair makes it through Williams’s nostalgic French pilgrimage with their  friendship miraculously intact.”

The book loses some of its impetus when Jane leaves the scene. Francophile Williams has further adventures in France and triumphantly passes her French language exams. She engages with nice people. She writes some evocative descriptives. She waxes philosophic, contemplating life, femininity and the future as a widow. Williams is a singularly positive and resourceful woman and she recognises her power to move on. This is the point of the book and she delivers some wise words which will resonate with many.

But the tensions of the odd couple are really what brought the book its life.”

Farewell my French Love, by Nadine Williams is published by Harlequin and is now available from all good bookshops.








A pictorial collection of our journey to France

Paris’s iconic Eiffel Tower

Caroline Nin sings a Hymn to Piaf in Paris last year.

Shakespeare and Company bookshop on Quay Montabello opposite Notre Dame

What better way to illustrate the exciting journey I experienced with my friend Jane in France than to show a few photographs. No explanation needed for the first photograph…The Eiffel Tower, or in French Tour Eiffel. French chanteuse sings Hymn to Piaf in a 13th century cellar far below the streets of Paris on the 50th anniversary of Piaf’s death.

The Loire Valley’s fairytale chateau of Chenonceau, arguably the most beautiful in the world, was home  to five remarkable women over a  300 year period  – and they preserved it for us to enjoy today.

Musee du Louvre on the banks of the Seine

Jane and I paused in a rose arbour before beginning a spellbinding tour of Villandry, in the Loire Valley which boasts the last restored Renaissance garden in France.

A new memoir, a new medium with Bolinda.

It is quite a foreign environment for a print journalist, whose medium has always been the printed word published in a daily newspaper. Instead, today, for the first time, I sit at a table in a small soundproof room before a portable lectern hitched up with an oversized, highly sensitive microphone.  Already, someone has placed a clean proof copy of my new book – Farewell My French Love – on the lectern.

Butterflies play havoc in my stomach because Ben, the producer, a lean fellow of middle-years, has placed sophisticated earphones over my ears.  He has left the room and now sits on the other side of a large double-glazed window and he speaks through the earphones asking me to read the first page of my book.  I wonder if I can stop my voice from quivering like my whole body.

However, with those first few words, which miraculously flow forth clearly, I begin to record my memoir for Bolinda Audiobooks. It is an exciting, unexpected experience and I do shiver in anticipation. Bolinda has bought the rights to market an audio production of my book and I have the glorious opportunity of reading my story of grief, loss and recovery.

Farewell My French Love will be available on Bolinda’s website on www.bolinda.com/aus/ from May 28.




Eastertime in Melbourne is always fun

Melbourne is always a refreshing lifestyle change from Adelaide. Here I learn all about the city’s amazing public transport system of trains and trams.  Train travel takes me between the two homes of two of my adult children and a bus will take me to the third child – a daughter in Williamstown.  Altona Meadows is way out along the Werribee line and Mont Albert is to the east along the Lillydale line.  I enjoy these quiet times before the joys of the five grand-children -two under five and three aged from 15 down to nine years old.   Roll on Easter when I shall arrive at daughter number one’s beautiful home in Mont Albert laden with drinks, entrees and easter eggs galore.  It is always hard to leave and return to Adelaide. But my home is in our fair city where the pace of life is still so much slower.

A lovely life after profound loss

A happy moment handling my books for the first time.

A happy moment handling my books for the first time.

What a happy day! My new book, Farewell My French Love, my second memoir, arrived at my doorstep and my pride knew no bounds.

Here is a photograph of my author’s copies. However, they will not be in bookshops until Monday, April 24. Harlequin non-fiction (HW Non Fiction), the publisher, has designed a wonderful front cover with a gold spine and embossed lettering.

So, dear readers, this wide smile reflects my euphoric mood. It has been such a long three-year process with a few changes of direction with my story and a few edits and I do think my bitter/sweet memoir of coping with grief following the death of my French-born husband,Olivier, is just perfect.

I need to tell you that on May 11, 2017, it will be five years since the day my beloved husband died.

We had only been married four years when he died of cancer.

I had been a successful newspaperwoman for 20 years. Although I had written many articles about grief and interviewed many grieving people, nothing prepared me for my own experience.

My children all lived interstate and I struggled with loneliness and slipped into depression – a terrifying state of being.

However, my story is also about friendship, the fun of travel and, of course recovery.

My friend Jane travelled with me from Barcelona toParis by train and our journey was peppered with many battles over food, fashion and French culture. It all tested our friendship, but it does make funny reading in hindsight.

In France, I retraced my honeymoon with Olivier in Provence and the glorious Loire Valley, and in Jane’s company, my sadness lifted.

But that’s only half the story. After Jane returned to Australia, I stayed alone in Paris trying to redefine myself as a widow and alone. I boarded with a woman in the Left Bank in a famous apartment block and I discovered life holds amazing surprises if you can successfully navigate that difficult rite of passage through grief. I learnt French at Alliance Francaise and found myself walking the same streets as famous French writers like Simone de Beauvoir. Finally, I understood that suffering loss is the legacy of having loved.