We’ll Always Have Paris is a memoir from journalist and award-winning blogger Emma Beddington. It begins in the austere surroundings of a Yorkshire school, where there is little colour until Beddington, then a bored, moody teenager, comes across a copy of French ELLE in the library.
It’s like nothing she has seen before and as she turned the pages, full of philosophy, sex and lipstick, she realised that her life had one purpose and one purpose only: she needed to escape her Yorkshire roots – she needed to be French.
And so begins her life-long obsession with what lay across the English Channel. While most of her friends were skulking in their bedroom listening to The Smiths or trudging to Betty’s Tea Rooms to buy fondant fancies, Beddington embarked on a whole new life. Fancying herself as a Bridget Bardot figure, she could generally be found sitting solitary outside the Café de Flore with a Scottie dog at her feet, a Moleskine on the table and a Gauloise trembling on her lower lip.
We’ve all been there. But Beddington took it a thousand steps further as she set about becoming truly French. After a French exchange, albeit in Casablanca; she studied French history at university, and spent the holidays in France with her French boyfriend. Eventually, after a family tragedy, she found herself living in Paris, with the same French boyfriend and two half-French children.
As is often the way the reality didn’t quite match up to her teenage dreams. Gradually she realised that she might have found Paris, but what she really needed to find was home.
Beddington’s memoir is a sumptuous ode to Gallic philosophy, patisserie and joie de vivre. But it is also a poignant account of grief, loss, relationships and identity. It’s a must-read for anyone who’s ever lived, or thought about living, abroad, Francophile or otherwise. And for anyone who has ever dreamed of a romantic French getaway.