The Paris Wedding…
Ten years ago, Rachael West chose not to move to Sydney with high-school sweetheart Matthew. Instead she stayed on the family wheat farm, caring for her seriously ill mother and letting go of her dreams. Now, Matthew is marrying someone else. And Rachael is invited to the wedding, a lavish affair in Paris, courtesy of the flamboyant family of Matthew’s fiancée – a once-in-a-lifetime celebration at someone else’s expense in Europe’s most romantic city.
She is utterly unprepared for what the week brings. Friendships will be upended, secrets will be revealed – and on the eve of the wedding, Rachael is faced with an impossible dilemma: should she give up on the promise of love, or destroy another woman’s life for a chance at happiness?
The Paris Wedding, by Charlotte Nash, would have to be the most delightful novel I have read so far this year. It is a beautiful story about what to do when your life ‘un-pauses’. Rachael West had been living her life very much on pause for more than 10 years while she cared for her mother who was slowly dying on account of suffering from an aggressive form of MS. It wasn’t until after her mother’s death though, that she fully realised this was what she had been doing. Everyone else around her had moved on and been living their lives, and while she had too, running a farm and caring for her mother, she hadn’t allowed herself to actually live beyond this. There was no ill-feeling towards her mother regarding this, but more of a realisation that time was slipping by and she had been standing still.
I liked this notion right from the start, and Rachael’s relationship with her mother, and her subsequent devastation at losing her, was one I appreciated enormously. It’s not a difficult thing, to simply slip into an unchanging routine, so I could see the plausibility of this quite clearly. It lent an authenticity to Rachael’s feelings about Matthew, her ex-boyfriend whose wedding in Paris she had been invited to. While on the surface it may seem odd that a woman would still be holding a candle for a boyfriend she had as a teenager more than 10 years ago, this pausing of her life that Rachael had set in place made this believable to me.
The characters within this novel were all so enjoyable to spend time with, not only the local characters that travelled to Paris along with Rachael, but the others she met there as well. Antonio, Yvette, even Bonnie, although I will state that from the get-go, I didn’t like Matthew at all. He epitomised the definition of a weak, spineless, and quite dishonest man, not only to those around him, but to himself as well. He was a real player and it frustrated me that Rachael could not clearly see this, her view too muddied by memories of a boy that she had once loved but no longer existed.
I thoroughly enjoyed Rachael’s time in Paris. Charlotte did such a wonderful job of bringing that city to life within the story and I loved how she described not only the tourist areas but included other incidentals that only locals would know about. Often times novels set in famous cities can be weighted down with description, coming off rather like sections of a guide-book have been inserted into the story. It’s quite a skill to bring a foreign location to life in such an anecdotal manner. Perhaps this worked so well because we were discovering Paris alongside Rachael, I’m not sure, but either way, this element of the story was brought to life in the most sublime manner and I enjoyed it so much.
At the heart of The Paris Wedding is a story about discovering who you are and how you want to continue living your life. For Rachael, this involved taking new chances, making mistakes, breaking through a wall of devastation, and starting all over again. I enjoyed every step of her journey, as well the relationships she had with her best friend Sammy, and her sister Tess. These two important relationships impacted greatly on Rachael’s journey to self discovery and I liked how she navigated her way through the often choppy waters of their various problems and dynamics. There was a strong sense of love within this story, not romantic love, but the love that we have for our family and closest friends. I enjoyed how this took precedence over any romantic notions, it was refreshing and deep, giving me cause to read the last fifty pages or so with a lump in my throat and tears stinging my eyes. The ending, while by no means a fairytale wrap-up (thank goodness!) was satisfactory and hard-fought for. I found this to be a well-paced novel with no extra plot twists or unnecessary character shifts.
I highly recommend The Paris Wedding to all who enjoy a touching coming of age story with an Australian country feel to it.
The Paris Wedding is book 39 in my 2017 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge.