Two women, grandmother and granddaughter, from two different eras facing very similar problems.
1924 Margie is a dissapointment to her parents; unmarried at 24, not particularly beautiful, prefers to read and write than go out. She feels a misfit in society. Then the chance comes to chaperone her cousin on a top to Paris. In Paris Margie comes alive, she is accepted by society and enjoys the company of artists and writers, she is no longer shackled by her parents values.
1999 Margie’s granddaughter, Madelein, comes to visit her mother in her hometown of Magnolia. She feels lost in a loveless and controlling marriage that she entered to please her mother. She no longer knows who she is or what she wants, like her grandmother she has spent her life trying to live by her mothers and societies values. On her visit she finds her grandmothers diaries in the loft and sees how similar their lives are. She finds inspiration in them and it makes her reconsider her own life.
This is a beautifully written book, especially the descriptions of Paris. I liked the parallel narrative and the different writing of Madelein’s story in the first person and Margie’s story in the third person, it made the narrative more interesting to read. There’s a good ensemble of supporting characters to Margie and Madelein’s story, all of which bring a sense of verisimilitude to the story. I have to say I found Margie’s story stronger; she transformed from a caterpillar into a butterfly in Paris and as a reader I really wanted her to enjoy her experience and break free from the constraints imposed on her by Ameican society. Madelein’s story was weaker and at times frustrating. She, like her grandmother, was made to feel like a misfit in society and a disappointment to her mother, but I don’t think she had the same charisma as Margie and I found her infuriating at times, I wanted her to be stronger.
Overall I did enjoy this book, I love books about Paris, but felt Madelein’s story needed to be stronger.