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I See London, I See France by Paulita Kincer; My take on the book

I absolutely adored Paulita Kincer's  I See London, I See France, a mature and moving novel about love and marriage, and the sacrifice of self we sometimes make along the way. While I thoroughly enjoyed the author's The Summer of France,  this latest book went much deeper. Perhaps because the main character, Caroline is so richly drawn, flaws and all, and because her story is so relatable, I See London, I See France really resonated with me, frequently bringing me to tears.

First, here's the overview from Amazon:
When her husband of a dozen years walks out in a huff, Caroline Sommers walks out too – to Europe, with her kids after impulsively selling her minivan for travel money. Tired of being the perfect wife, she escapes to rediscover herself, and possibly rekindle the unrequited love of a Frenchman from her college days. While shepherding her kids from London to Scotland then Paris to Provence, she finds herself at a crossroads. Does she choose love, or lust, in the arms of a European man, or should she try again with the father of her children and the man she truly loved, once?
Ah, Caroline, sweet Caroline! Right from the beginning Kincer takes us into Caroline's head and her heart so that we are with her every step of the way, not only in her journey through Europe, but her mental wanderings as well. What woman, in those moments of frustration and difficulty that arrive in any marriage, hasn't looked at her own version of Scott, (Caroline's husband) and burdened by all the demands of laundry, cooking, kids, work - whether you're a full time stay at home mom or a full time college professor - AND trying to be your own person, and wondered how it 'might have been'. Playing the 'if only' game can be dangerous but Caroline, furious with Scott for taking off, takes the leap and flies across the pond. She'll take some time to figure things out and if she happens to rediscover romance with her long lost love Jean-Marc, so much the better. Indeed! It's an impulsive move that leaves the reader worrying where it will lead, and asking ourselves what we would do in her place.

Kincer, by telling the story in chapters that alternate between past and present, paints a poignant picture, contrasting the romance, the youthful yearnings and adventures of Caroline's past with the reality of day-to-day married life. We journey back to 1996 when Caroline was a young, single and vulnerable au pair in France, enjoying her flirtation with Jean Marc and falling, along with her, for the sexy, slightly older Frenchman in one chapter. Then a fast forward to the present day in the next chapter, revealing Caroline, the wife and devoted mother, unsure where she fits into her own life in Columbus, Ohio, unsure what her travels in Europe will reveal about herself, her feelings and her future.

Deftly preventing the tone from becoming too melancholy, the author packs the book with all the charms of travel, making me feel like I was on the trip too, my suitcase squeezed into a corner of the hotel room, ready to see the sights. King Arthur's castle, (inspiring me to google Tintagel castle) the Lock Ness Monster, Monet's Garden. Eating escargot, drinking menthe a l'eau, European bathrooms, nude beaches, and a very seductive gypsy named Gustave. What was really wonderful though is where traveling takes Caroline on her inner journey. It's easy to romanticize the past, put blinders on to the faults and foibles of a memory while casting an overly critical eye on the here and now. Our heroine finds the courage to look and see things clearly for what they were and for what they are.

The children were a pleasure, their quirks and passions a constant reminder of Caroline's ties to their father, as well as her role of mother; the role that despite any subjugation of self, Caroline can never and will never divorce herself from. Kincer's Caroline isn't super-mom; she's exhausted from thinking of everyone else first and putting herself last, but she loves those kids; in the end, rather than being the ties that bind, they are the guideposts that help Caroline find her way.

A really lovely, nuanced and evocative novel that would make a fine film; fantastic locations, three sexy men, a fierce female protagonist with a strong character arc, and a compelling emotional story.

I've asked Paulita who she'd cast in the film version and I can't wait to share her thoughts. Watch for Paulita's dreamcast in an upcoming post I'll call My Book the Movie.

Connect to Dreaming of France, Paulita's weekly meme for lovers of all things French ... and I have a feeling that lovers of all things French are going to love this book!