You know how sometimes you hear stories that make you think, “Wow. This was no accident! This was meant to be.”
Some days I can (and want) to go the other way: I can just as easily get behind the idea that everything is random and chaotic, hazardous and accidental. Especially about bad things. Who wants to believe that bad things happen on purpose? Not me.
But today I want to share a story that is about good things, serendipity, connections, meaningfulness, and a seeming plan. In short, something that seems full of kismet, or as it was put in the book The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, maktub. It’s the Arabic word for “destiny” — literally, “it is written.”
As a lover of books and a hopeful writer wannabe, I appreciate the idea that our lives can be written like a story, if not each word, sentence, and paragraph completely set down, then at least as a healthy plot outline which we can follow, and that if we are attuned to our lives and inner sense of being and purpose, we can sense the narrative arc that we came into this life intending. Not to say there are not plot twists and turns along the way. I think that any author worth his or her salt will say that even though they go in intending to write one thing, sometimes another is what comes out. I venture to think our lives are similar.
In the story I plan to share here, a protagonist named MADEMOISELLE LONDON © was born.
The creation of Katya Jezzard-Payraud and Franki Goodwin, Mademoiselle London is the British Everygirl who has come to Paris to try her lot, as many before her, in the expatriate life.
What she finds is that she Hearts Paris, sometimes (quelquefois).
Images © Mademoiselle London, from the website, mademoisellelondon.fr
A little over a month ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with the illustrator of MADEMOISELLE LONDON ♥ PARIS (quelquefois/sometimes), Franki Goodwin. I was able to discover more about her and Katya’s brainchild and how it came to be.
But first, a description.
What is the book MADEMOISELLE LONDON ♥ PARIS (quelquefois/sometimes)?
Part grown-up picture book, part book of prose poetry and modern verse, MADEMOISELLE LONDON ♥ PARIS (quelquefois/sometimes) is most of all a tale about a young woman from London who chronicles and expresses the particular joys and difficulties of what it is for her to make a life in Paris when not Parisienne, but hoping to find her place in the City of Light.
The website/press release download describes the book as follows:
Written in English AND French, “Mademoiselle London ♥ Paris (sometimes)” presents the opening chapter of her new life in Paris featuring drawings and poems in which our heroine – with her heart on her sleeve – wrestles with loneliness, language and some very dodgy characters.
Who is Mademoiselle London?
The French motto is “Liberté, Eglaité, Fraternité.” If there are three words that can sum up the total of Mademoiselle London, they are, as Franki told me, “Hilarity, Tenacity, Generosity.” Mlle. London is the girl who will probably never completely fit in, but who is going to give it her best try. She may not be cool, but she is savvy, and is going to make her way in Paris.
Why should I buy this book?
I think you should buy this book because it is a perfect coordination of utterly charming color and black and white illustrations with insightful, entertaining, and cheeky writing, and it is a visual delight as careful consideration has been put into the layout, typeset, quality of paper, and every other aspect you could think of when it comes to making a printed work of art.
Even though I am a 42-year-old American woman, and not the Gen Y London mademoiselle that is the voice in the verse, I could relate to the events and the emotions present.
One of my favorite poems is at the end of the book, and is entitled, “You Know That Book You Wrote About Paris? Well I’m Here Now and It’s Nothing Like You Said It Was.”
It’s a conversation between Mademoiselle London and Papa Hemingway. Here, in part (page 31 of the book):
Take me into a wooden nook
Tell me with your peanut breath
Tell me I was right to come here
Tell me I have not made the biggest mistake of my life
Tell me I am welcome
Tell me I will soon feel at home in this scary place
With big grey buildings and hard grey rain
Tell me I will find a person to love me again
And Hemingway says
Shut the fuck up
What Papa continues to tell her is priceless advice.You’ll have to buy the book to read what he says, but the kicker line for me, the one that made me get a little teary when I read it, was, “Paris is your maternity ward and you have just been born.”
Good, good stuff.
A lot of the works remind me of a 1960s poet I read in high school, Richard Brautigan, but the poems also recall those of William Carlos Williams, e.e. cummings, and other modern verse poets, all of whom I like a lot. The poems are not short and gratuitous, however. There is both a sophistication and tenderness in the writing, as well as great humor. Stephen Fry and the self-appointed, old-school Poetry Guardians might take issue with the works within, but I found them witty, intelligent, and strong examples of contemporary verse.
I don’t think that the goal of the book is to be a great work of poetry, however.
As the creators of this book have said, the goal is “to connect French and English people and to have a bit of a laugh together.” To my view, the book does just that.
So what about the “kismet” part of this all? How does that work in?
Well, as of a little more than a year ago, Katya and Franki did not know one another.
Franki is more or less a Scot (her own words were that she is “kind-of Scottish”), and Scotland is where she hailed from before relocating to London, where she lived and worked for ten years in promotional media and graphic design. A trip touring the globe followed London, a time in which she renewed her love of drawing. The tour preceded her ending up in Paris just about a year ago, a place she grew up connected to as her mother is a Francophile and French scholar.
Katya is a Londoner who has lived in Paris for five years, married to a Frenchman and mother to two young boys. Since I did not have the pleasure of meeting Katya in person, and have not yet been able to ask her all kinds of questions, I know less of her story. I just know that she has a background in writing — as a journalist and also as a film and television writer — and that she is very humorous about life, the universe, and everything, as evidenced from her work in the book.
What gets me, and makes me want to shout “KISMET!” is how these two met, and how quickly they bonded and came up with the idea of Mademoiselle London, and then brought it all to fruition.
This first volume of theirs and the alter ego Mademoiselle London were born just a few short months after Franki and Katya had an initial meeting in a Ménilmontant café in the 20th arrondissment of Paris. Franki and Katya got together because of friends of friends. Their mutual friends suggested they meet one another, thought they might get on. I’m guessing little did they know they were playing a pivotal role in the birth of a book, a concept, a personality named “Mademoiselle London.” When Katya and Franki did meet, and as they talked about their respective backgrounds and current situations, they found they had a common and instant connection in their feelings about and experiences of Paris, as well as about being two mademoiselles specifically from London in Paris. As Franki shared her drawings with Katya, and as Katya shared her verses with Franki, they realized they had a good project idea on their hands, one that seemed to flow out of them as if it had been intended that they work with one another on just such a project as this. You know, like it was maktub. Rather than just sit and simply talk about it endlessly, however, as creative people with interesting ideas are often wont to do, they jumped right in and started to work, matching poem to picture and picture to poem in a rapidly developing back-and-forth fashion, sometimes with queer synchronization — the kind of thing where one person says “I was just thinking of that” or “See what I wrote” and it matches perfectly with what the other person just drew.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something that was meant to be, especially when I see the final results. They are fantastic.
A Mademoiselle London poster, available at the online store.
The good news is, there are more volumes in the works, and hopes and dreams for Mademoiselle London to be all she can be. Who knows? Maybe we will one day see a film with Mademoiselle London, a sort of “Bridget Jones Does Paris” kind of thing, but better, I’m sure. All things in their good time, but I think that Franki and Katya’s alter-ego is on to something, and I wish them all the best of success.
Lots is happening on the web concerning Mademoiselle London with reviews galore popping all over the Paris Blog Neighborhood and on other websites (see the Facebook page for Mademoiselle London, as well as the links I have put in below, for more reviews).
There will also be a gathering to celebrate the debut of this volume here in Paris next week, on the evening of Thursday, December 16. If you are in Paris and would like more information about attending, you can email me via the Contact page here on my blog, or go to the Mademoiselle London sites. The information on the celebration is on their Facebook page events calendar, for one.
Where To Get the Book
Even More Info… and a giveaway
Here are a couple of blogs I read which have featured MADEMOISELLE LONDON ♥ PARIS (quelquefois/sometimes), too.
- Invisible Paris – Paris People: Mademoiselle London
Adam of Invisible Paris has written a succinct review of the book on his site.
- Misadventures With Andi — 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway – Day 9
If you see or know of any other reviews for this book which you like, please link them into the comments! I’ll add them to the post.
This book would make a terrific Christmas gift for any Francophile, especially one learning French as the book is in dual languages, but I think that anyone who has ever felt like the odd girl out, the one that does not quite belong, will appreciate this little gem of a book. Go get it.
Thanks for reading…
I hope you have enjoyed this review as much as I enjoyed reading the book and meeting Franki. I’m going to be at the celebration on Thursday, so I hope you can join me there.
I apologize for not updating on my own existence here in Paris in some time. November was a pretty crazy month with working on a draft of a novel for NaNoWriMo (I wrote over 50K words of fiction, though!). I have been babysitting, meeting people, and I also spent the better part of the month sick. All of those things have meant less time for focusing on writing here. I have been on Facebook and Twitter, though, so I invite you to connect with me there, if you want to keep tabs on me in other places.
I’ll be back to posting here soon. I have things to say. In the meantime, get this book and read it. You won’t be disappointed.