A French Life #1
Aberystwyth University, 1986 – and another year of torrential rain. Bad hair days and a rugby-fanatic fiancé are part of her drab existence so who can blame Karen for falling into the arms of a handsome Parisian?
Hastening across The Channel with stars in her eyes, she speeds to the city of light only to discover that her lover is nowhere to be found. Nor what he seemed.
Life takes a turn for the better when her old school-friend Jessica makes a dramatic entrance, encouraging Karen on a downward spiral of adventure – including a brush with the Parisian underworld which places both girls in peril.
Karen’s childhood is a constant anguish reminding her that when things go wrong, not everyone has a home to return to, as the dark shadows of the past merge with her troubled French life.
Where to go, when there’s no going home?
Based on a true story, A Stranger in Paris is the first of a three-part series. This honest memoir recounts with humour and poignancy the search for love and family.
The ambitiously named ‘Sprinter’ wound into Aberystwyth station signalling the end of my university life. It was time to say goodbye to drenched hair, waxed raincoats and missed deadlines, never mind three years of not understanding the bottom half of municipal signposts. I was off to Paris, city of lights and romance, to be reunited with the love of my life, Monsieur David Azoulay. Standing with me on the platform to mark this momentous occasion were my closest friends of recent months – a group of men in long robes huddled against the spitting rain; their decision to don the national costume of their home countries adding a bright, if somewhat incongruous, note to the station platform. The guard threw a suspicious glance in our direction as he strolled past, blowing a sharp blast of warning into his whistle. We resembled a mislaid pantomime cast heading for Blackpool pier. Half the group were muttering in foreign languages, none of which were Welsh.
The men’s grimaces and doleful looks were clear enough to decipher in any language: You bloody idiot, are you really prepared to lose your last shred of pride? You little fool, embarking on this journey; this hiding to nothing. In their eyes, I was a ridiculous English woman; chasing after a French man who had told me it’s over; pursuing a man of deep faith, whose parents had torn my letters before his eyes for he was an Orthodox Jew and I was not.
Not that the man I had loved for the past few months had looked or dressed like an Orthodox Jew. Not, at least, when playing the field at Aberystwyth. I’d checked out stock images at the library. There’d been nothing to give away David’s game. No clues in his razor-sharp hair or hound-tooth jacket. He’d whispered nothing about Judaism into my ear when we first met, only sweet nothings in that drawling French accent which had left me dribbling into my snakebite at the union bar. If there were any subtler clues, then I’d missed them! And by the time I knew what all of this meant, it was too late. I should accept my fate and see the sense of David’s words. That’s what Rafi said. My station friends shared strict Muslim values. They were unsympathetic to what they considered to be my borderline stalking. My chosen one would never make an honest woman of me. This was their collective belief. My market value had been lowered, in Habte’s words, to less than that of a geriatric camel.
Thank you, Karen Webb and Love Books Group
About the author
Karen graduated from Aberystwyth University with a Degree in English Literature. She then moved to Paris, where she worked for 16 years as an English language teacher for business professionals before settling in rural South West France. With few employment opportunities other than stuffing geese or picking melons, she qualified as a licensed real estate agent.
Karen then attended Lancaster University where she graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing in 2015, after which she set up a series of Creative Writing retreats, “A Chapter Away”, inviting world famous authors, literary agents and publishers to teach aspiring novelists. Inspired by the comments of tutors on the memoir writing course, she began “A Stranger in Paris.”
Passionate about theatre, and script-writing, Karen has also written plays, several short stories and a novel – all of which are lurking in the bottom drawer. “A Stranger in Paris” is her first published work, and is the first novel of the trilogy La Vie Française.
Karen now lives in Gascony with her husband and son, and has a grown-up daughter who works in London. Much of her writing is inspired by the North West of England where she grew up, and France which became her country of adoption.