Review Blog

Jan 23 2017

Lisette's Paris notebook by Catherine Bateson

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Allen and Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781760293635
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Paris. Romance. Art. Fashion. When eighteen year old Lisette hits Paris for the summer holidays before going to uni in Melbourne, she is aware that she is doing something her mother always dreamed of doing. Mum has arranged that she stay with Madame Christophe, a clairvoyant she met online and Lisette will take French lessons to improve her language skills as well as gain an appreciation of the arts and fashion, touring art galleries and haute couture. From the start the reader is aware of some tension between Lisette and her mother who raised her after her artist lover abandoned her and fled to Wales.
With misgivings Lisette goes along to French lessons in her vintage punk and Doc Martins, only to be challenged by much she sees and hears.
Her great-grandmother was the proud owner of a Chanel jacket and with a seamstress mother, fashion is part of her makeup.
But she does not reckon with the men she meets and readers will laugh out loud as I did, when Lisette consents to being a model for one of the art students at her French class, and then has a worrying time trying to work out what to wear to disrobe.
But try as she might, this man is not for her and accidentally meeting an Englishman in the park, begins to fall in love.
This funny, absorbing coming of age novel, full of references to Paris, fashion, art galleries and food will fascinate teenage girls yearning like Lisette to try all that Paris offers.
Paris invades every page: its sights and sounds, colours, fashion, architecture and people are the thread of the novel, making every reader want to go and capture the essence of the city, while those who have been will wish to return.
Lisette has some real choices to make, but is always aware of her return ticket to Australia and the looming departure date. Finding that her dead father left her money, allows her to make a decision that had been impossible and in ringing his widow, finds common ground with the woman she has never met. Middle secondary girls will love Lisette, seeing Paris through her eyes, looking at her options as she becomes more involved with Hugo who must return to England. Bateson has again produced a wonderfully entertaining story of a young girl in an unfamiliar situation, potent with choices, impelling the readers to ponder what choice they would make.
Lisette is surrounded by beautifully written characters that will endear the reader to Lisette and her friends. Hugo is an enigma but adorable, Madam Christophe magnificent with her tarot cards and scarves, Fabienne stunning with her stilettos, Anders and Gabi ooze early warning signals, while the girls Lisette meets give her courage. All of her experiences encourage her to take her own path, to find her own way, to be herself. And she does.
Fran Knight

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