Paris, He Said
by Christine Sneed
Narrated by Elise Arsenault, Charlie Thurston
TANTOR MEDIA: Publication date Sep 22, 2015
Running time 11 hrs
In Print from Bloomsbury USA, May 2015 & Bloomsbury UK, Oct. 2015
Audiobook provided by publisher. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
Jayne Marks is questioning the choices she has made in the years since college and is struggling to pay her bills in Manhattan when she is given the opportunity to move to Paris with her wealthy lover and benefactor, Laurent Moller, who owns and operates two art galleries, one in New York, the other in Paris. He offers her the time and financial support she needs to begin her career as a painter and also challenges her to see who and what she will become if she meets her artistic potential.
Laurent, however, seems to have other women in his life and Jayne, too, has an ex-boyfriend, much closer to her own age, whom she still has feelings for. Bringing Paris gloriously to life, Paris, He Said is a novel about desire, beauty, and its appreciation, and of finding yourself presented with the things you believe you’ve always wanted, only to wonder where true happiness lies.
I thought this book was something of a mess. It doesn’t go anywhere, but from NY to Paris. Jayne comes off, at first as uncalculating, direct. But as the story progresses her motives and her methods seem less innocent and Laurent doesn’t see anyone that way. He seems pretty honest, and self-examined in his own mind where he thinks he is good and helpful — nearly a saint. But from the exterior he just seems secretive. Both characters are complex and full of contradictions.
The blurb certainly makes it sound like Jayne, a painter seeking out a living as an admin and in retail, set out to get what she wanted from Laurent, a wealthy, older gallery owner. Laurent sets up a somewhat “open” relationship, stating she shouldn’t worry about what he is doing when he is not with her. She doesn’t like that but figures she’ll go along and he won’t be having affairs left and right. They are of course just human, different in age, culture, and socioeconomic status. But, regardless of intent it is either a callous or highly evolved person who doesn’t engage their feelings when living with someone.
The book is split, not evenly, into her take and his take. I didn’t get the switch when it happened. It felt quite abrupt. And it strengthened my idea that this book was light on plot and more an lengthy character sketch. It didn’t reveal much to me and I felt it relied on stereotypes of the French for those characters. Laurent sees himself as a humble mentor of artists but he really isn’t all that humble. He doesn’t see that he has any motives although he does admit he doesn’t mind sexing up his proteges. “Eet ees so Fraunch, no?” Seriously – she portrays the French as being fine with extramarital affairs which is a form of cultural profiling that doesn’t hold up with the French I’ve known.
Jayne is a painter, but I am uncertain where her painting drive comes into the plot. She seems to drift around her talent, it’s almost a sideline. She doesn’t manifest her love of paint outside the studio. I didn’t feel any justification for the characters being together.
I felt rather “meh” about this one.