This book is described as a coming of age story. A description I have always assumed means maturing. But I would describe this book as a closing over as ages story.
We meet the main character Charlotte at age 15, she lives in Paris, France with her American parents and sister Lea. She adores her mother Astrid and they live in luxury thanks to her father Frank. Charlotte thinks about normal teenage things, like when is she going to get her overdue period, her love for Patrice and her shifting friendship with Delphine. But things get serious when her mother falls for a political Polish man and gets herself arrested in Warsaw. Astrid is released but her marriage dissolves. Charlotte still loves her mother fervently so she decides to go to New York and live there with her, becoming disillusioned with her mother along the way.
She never loves again. After her mother’s betrayal,after the dissolution of her family, she closes her heart over. She becomes a world weary academic, sleeping with men for the feeling of power it gives her. Charlotte seems aware of the armour her mother and others put up. Aware that she doesn’t really know her mother, and never will. But unaware that she is following in her mother’s footsteps and becoming just as barricaded.
I feel sad for Charlotte, because growing up doesn’t mean giving up on love. Growing up doesn’t mean a string of one night stands and a dullness in living.
Yes (SPOILERS) Charlotte becomes a writer, but even that seems flat. There is something very lonely about her existence and at the end of the book, all I can think is you’re only 30, you’re too young to settle for numbness. And she can tell me she’s content working at Glamour, but all I can think is how shut off her heart is. A life without love, isn’t living at all, it’s just going through the motions.
My verdict: well written but, sad. Very sad. I hope Charlotte, even though she is fictional finds love. It doesn’t even have to be romantic love, I just want her to have companionship and love for herself. For her to love herself enough to know that it’s safe to crack open the shutters of her heart. It’s safe to trust her heart.