Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
The Paris Affair is the third novel by Pip Drysdale. Her two earlier books The Sunday Girl and The Strangers We Know were both best sellers, sold worldwide with the second being developed for television.
Her latest contribution, The Paris Affair, is a novel about modern society with much reference to Uber rides, dating apps and a strong reliance on the mobile phone. The main character is an English girl who has picked up a journalist job in Paris after a long-term relationship has ended.
It may be because of my older years but I could not warm to this character. To me, she came across as being duplicitous, changing her name in different situations to achieve her goals, as well as being manipulative. When returning to a previous lover to gain information, she confides to the reader that she is doing her best wounded bird impersonation.
‘I need to get his sympathy, so he’s amenable when I ask for his help in a little while…I need to soften him up first… Because I’m going to need to sleep with him. Then he’ll feel like he took advantage of my vulnerable state and he’ll do whatever he needs to do to make himself feel better about that …Mission accomplished. I can go home now’ (218-221).
The book is written in the first person in a conversational style. The narrator feels it necessary to tell the reader all her thoughts. After the demise of her eight-year relationship, she denounces the idea of true love forever, believing it to be nothing more than a beautiful biological hoax. It feels a bit patronising when she has the need to explain customs of her new-found domicile, one example being- ‘Chrysanthemums. In France, those are the flowers you buy for when somebody dies’ (170).
The first half of the storyline is all about this character, Harper Brown, her negative attitude towards life and the competitive nature of her new job at the Paris Observer. The story does gain momentum though when we hear about a supposed serial killer stalking the streets of Paris and Harper’s close proximity to at least one of the murders. Even the writing style in the second half of the book changes to short sharp sentences to increase the tension.
I really loved some of the descriptions about the environment which were compared to more unusual descriptors. ‘Two hours later the sky is the colour of denim and the leaves set against it are mustard and rust red’ (240). ‘I turn my gaze to the sky beyond the window. It’s blue with a wisp of apricot and the air is Antarctic’ (254). Another aspect of this novel that I found different was that the wording to denote each chapter was in French and the title of the story inside the cover was all in lower-case letters.
Pip Drysdale, the author of this book, is a writer, musician and actor who grew up in Africa and Australia. She has moved to New York and also London for her acting and played shows across Europe. In 2015, she started on her writing career. Like her previous books, her latest novel features a woman’s face and pastel colours on the cover. The clever highlighting of flesh in the shape of the Eiffel Tower is most appropriate for this story. The back cover also gives a short profile of the main character in the book with the provocative words ‘No matter what Audrey Hepburn might have said about the city of love, it turns out Paris is not always a good idea.
No doubt the depiction of the characters in this novel is true to young adults in the 2020s and I am sure they would thoroughly enjoy this storyline. It depicts a forthright, though somewhat impulsive, young woman prepared to go out on her own for a career, who finds herself in danger because of her often irresponsible behaviour. There is the bonus of murder and the hint that she may indeed find a rewarding relationship which would help her gain a more positive attitude towards life.
The Paris Affair
by Pip Drysdale
Simon & Schuster Australia
ISBN: 9 781760 854324
$32.99; 352 pp