I imagine a lot of us have dreamt of taking off to Europe for a few glorious seasons – Jennifer Andrewes has done just that, spending four seasons in the French Pyrenees, and managed to write a book about it. Parallel Lives: Four Seasons in the French Pyrenees will be launching at Unity Books Wellington on Wednesday 5th September, 6-7:30pm. Read Jennifer’s author interview below – including which famous actress (or two) would play her in the film adaption of her story and where her favorite place is to write.
About the book
Increasingly dissatisfied with the humdrum routine of corporate life, Jennifer Andrewes does what many of us can only dream about when, in 2014, she and her family pack up and spend two seasons living in a village in the south-west region of France. But it’s not just any region as Jennifer discovers – the Aude region is on the 42nd parallel north. Wellington, her home city here in New Zealand, is on the 42nd parallel south, and is the nearest thing the Aude has to an antipodal sister city.
Parallel Lives tells the story of their time in a small town in the foothills of the Pyrenees: how they came to live there, the experiences gained and life lessons learned. In some ways, it’s a story that is still being written as they work out how to live a long-term life on two sides of the world.
About the author
As a child, Dunedin-born Jennifer spent time living in France kicking off a life-long love affair with the country. A communications professional, she has worked in tourism and government roles both here and in the UK, as well as undergoing stints as a freelance travel writer. Her blog on the family’s French adventure was widely enjoyed and it was prompting from readers that led Jennifer to write a book about the family’s experiences.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE BOOK(S)?
I am currently reading If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor. It’s not a recent publication, but one I heard about through a radio interview a while ago and was intrigued by. It’s a remarkable story, which draws as much on poetic writing as compelling prose. McGregor draws the reader in to the developing narrative through the cleverly timed interweaving of different perspectives on a single event that gradually add up to the whole picture in a way that heightens the anticipation. It’s hard to put down.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?
My favourite writer is Ian McEwan. I can’t say I like everything he has written equally, but I love the depth of his writing, the compelling way he opens his stories and the sheer genius of the story concepts he comes up with for the way they provoke your thinking on what are often very human interactions and quandaries. Amsterdam is simply outstanding, and Enduring Love, Sweet Tooth and Saturday all very different, are my other top picks. A Child in Time is also hard to forget, once read, especially as a parent.
WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE?
I am somewhat obsessed with books about people’s experiences of living in Europe. The obsession started in the name of ‘research’ for my own book and I now keep a stack of (mainly second-hand) books about life in France, Spain and Italy permanently close to hand for bedtime reading. At the moment this includes a variety of tales, many self-published, about expatriate family lives in various rural parts of France from the Dordogne in the West, through the Languedoc villages and vineyards, to the high Pyrenees and eponymous Provencal rural idylls. Amongst them, Life in a Postcard by Rosemary Bailey, is one that particularly inspired me to think about our move to the Mediterranean end of the Pyrenees.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?
One of my favourite film adaptations is of Joanne Harris’ book Chocolat. The film is very faithful to the book and having spent time in countless small villages – including the particular village of Flavigny where the film was shot – the book is also very faithful to the reality of village life. Plus Juliette Binoche is one of my favourite actresses. She (or Kate Winslet) would be my pick to play me in a film adaptation of my story.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RE-READ THE MOST AND WHY?
I have read and re-read Five Quarters of the Orange, also by Joanne Harris, more times than I can count. It’s my ‘go-to’ when I want a real comfort read. She’s such a wonderful storyteller – her words conjure up powerful visual imagery. Every sense is heightened, and the characterisation is great. Having spent some time in the area in which the book is set, the village descriptions also always bring back great memories for me.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN MEANING TO READ BUT STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN AROUND TO?
Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. My mother-in-law kindly bought it for me when it was first published and copies were hard to come by. The timing coincided with the birth of my third son, and I think she thought some reading material would be good. Unfortunately the brief snippets of time between feeds were not enough brain space to tackle a book of this nature, and I have just never got back to it!
WHICH THREE WRITERS WOULD YOU HAVE OVER FOR SUPPER?
Joanne Harris (The French Kitchen), Allyson Gofton (Recipes from my French Kitchen) and Mimi Thorisson (French Country Cooking), fellow foodies and Francophiles would make for companionable dinner conversation about life in France. When I was questioning the merits of writing a book about our experience, meeting Allyson and reading her book about her family’s time at the other end of the Pyrenees, was a real inspiration.
WHAT WOULD YOU COOK THEM?
I would get them to cook for me, obviously! Definitely French. Probably a French onion soup – although it’s a cliché, it remains a personal favourite . Possibly boeuf bourguignon. A tarte tatin would probably feature – or possibly a blueberry tart, which is my favourite recipe from Joanne Harris’s recipe book.
HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SHELVED AND ORGANISED AT HOME?
Once upon a time they were shelved alphabetically by author surname. That was before I had children. Now they’re in some haphazard mix across multiple bookcases depending on where the nearest available vacant spot was when I needed to tidy up.
A QUESTION FROM PREVIOUS AUTHOR INTERVIEWEE, SEQUOIA SCHMIDT:
“Where is your favourite place to write?”
In the kitchen of our French house, at the family dining table, looking out over the hills, with a coffee in hand (and possibly a fresh pastry from the local boulangerie).