- Book: I Love You Too Much
- Location: Paris
- Author: Alicia Drake
“In the sixth arrondissement everything is perfect and everyone is lonely”
It is not often that a book of this binding quality arrives on our desk, beautiful ochre linen cloth and black/white photos of the Jardin du Luxembourg adorning the inner covers. You just know you are in for a treat! And a treat it is! A fairly short book, it charts one Autumn and Winter period of 13 year old Paul, who is living with his Mother Sévérine, and her newly born daughter (his step sister) Lou; plus her younger hanger-on musician lover, Gabriel. Paul’s biological father meanwhile has set up home a little way across the city.
Paul is a young, adolescent boy, who has to adapt to the needs of his toxic parents who are focussed on themselves and their needs, largely at his expense. It is a lonely existence for him as he tries to understand the ways of adults, culminating in the shock of one event that shatters his teetering coming-of-age world. His confidante is fellow pupil Scarlett (whom he meets when the social elite of the 6th arrondissement decamps for Thalasso treatments to Brittany for a few days). She becomes his companion as he navigates this exceptionally trying period of his life. She is attached to an internet world that comforts her in her loneliness.
Paris is beautifully observed as he wanders through the Jardin du Luxembourg from his home on the Rue d’Assas, taking in the swirling waters of the Seine, observing the people going about their daily lives, perhaps shopping at Le Bon Marché just a stone’s throw from his father’s apartment .
Detail in this book is on so many levels rich and satisfying. Paul tackles his angst by eating – Pringles, Chupa Chups and chips, much to his svelte mother’s chagrin (she is very Parisian in her attention to her own looks and honed body image).
The social issues of Filipina maids is also a feature of the book. Cindy, who works for Paul’s household, is an illegal immigrant. She is in an invidious position as she cannot leave France, because she could never return. She is thus denied seeing her own young children, a sad irony as childcare for others is her life. Other Parisians of social parity, also employ – if indeed that is the right word – immigrants to nanny and clean for them. It is thought-provoking content all round.
So, you can guess I liked this book very much. It delivers on all levels and I highly recommend this absorbing and well written novel.