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.








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