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Goodbye, Paris

A Novel



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About The Book

* International Bestseller * A Book of the Month Club Pick*

The Little Paris Bookshop meets Jojo Moyes in Goodbye, Paris, an utterly charming novel that proves that sometimes you have to break your heart to make it whole.

From the simple melody of running her violin shop to the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kick-start a new song for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about…

Filled with charming and lovably flawed characters—and illuminated with the undeniable romance and magic of Paris—Goodbye, Paris is a poignant, compulsively readable novel that shows us that when it comes to love, there’s more than one way to find happiness.


Goodbye, Paris Chapter One
We were staying at David’s apartment in Paris the night the woman fell onto the Metro tracks.

It was late July, one of those sweating, angry evenings when the heartbeat of the city quickens as it reaches a breaking point, where it readies itself for the rushed exit of August. Shopkeepers hurry their customers through with the same urgency that they will use to take to the motorways any day now. Children bubble with excitement and young people shout across the summer air. They will all be leaving in less than a week and they can’t wait. I’ve never been in Paris long enough to feel like that about it.

That night, David and I had been to the conservatoire for a concert. It was a surprise gift, a romantic gesture.

“These are for you,” he said, and slid the envelope across the breakfast table towards me. It said For Grace in his neat handwriting, the sloping letters drawn with the black fountain pen he always uses. “You’ve been working too hard. And I”—he stood up and came to my side of the table, curling his arms around me and kissing my face—“have been a lousy boyfriend.”

“As if.”

David is never a lousy boyfriend. He thinks of everything and leaves nothing to chance; it’s part of his charm.

I opened the envelope, gasped at the program, the appropriateness of it. David can bring things to my life that I don’t even know are missing.

“What did I do to deserve this?”

“I’ll think of something,” David said. “Maybe coming all the way here when you’ve been working nonstop for weeks? Maybe for being so patient and forgiving me for missing my last two trips over to you? Maybe just for being beautiful.” He pushed my side plate out of the way, leaving a thin trail of apricot jam across the table. He pulled me to my feet. “You want to earn those concert tickets, both of them?”

We went back to bed, laughing.

* * *

In the ornate concert hall of the Paris Conservatoire, I sat openmouthed and barely breathing as that year’s finest students gave their end-of-year recital. A young cellist, not even out of his teens, did such justice to Corelli’s “La Follia” that it brought tears to my eyes. When I was his age, even when I practiced for six hours a day, I could not play like that. I lacked the right kind of soul.

David had a perfectly ironed white handkerchief in his jacket pocket and he handed it to me, gesturing towards the fat, quiet tears about to tip onto my face. He smiled as he did it.

* * *

We only have three days together: two nights and three precious days in Paris before I take the two-hour train journey back to the UK and he heads off home to Strasbourg. We try not to pack these short trips full of activities. We spend our time cooking or trailing our fingers along the edges of market stalls, wondering which vegetables to get, how best to dress salad: mundane and comforting domesticity.

We get up late and go to bed early, cocooned. We mostly stay in the apartment, drinking coffee on the iron balcony, or we drape ourselves across the deep sofas and listen to music. We don’t go out to restaurants and we don’t have friends here; it would dilute our tiny amount of time together, time made precious by its scarcity.

So it is unusual for us to be standing at the Metro station, to be traveling home with those people itching to leave the city. The Porte de Pantin foyer is crowded; we knew it would be. We could have waited at a bar nearby, sat outside and watched the swallows dive for the evening gnats above us in the open air, but we want to be back. I will be leaving tomorrow afternoon; our time is so brief, so funneled in, that even the blissful moments at the concert seemed like a tiny treachery.

David takes my hand and we squash between the other passengers. We walk along the white-tiled corridors, down into the belly of the packed station.

On the platform, a fug of hot engine grease hangs in the air like the ghost of a train. The old-fashioned box sign clicks through its announcements; the next train is only moments away. We get ready to jostle our way through the crowd, the girls with impossibly slim legs in bright-colored trousers, boys in suit jackets with their sleeves rolled back, just once, to reveal knobbly wrists, old women in gabardine raincoats who must be stifling in the heat.

Directly in front of us, her feet almost touching the platform edge, is a woman. She wears some kind of salwar kameez in black and a shimmering head scarf threaded through with gold across her hair and shoulders.

Everything happens too fast. I can’t register the order of events, let alone the consequences. One moment she is there, her feet parallel with mine, her shoulders the same width, her head the same height, and then she vanishes. She crumples to the floor like a conjuror’s trick. I see how her knees buckle and I get ready for her head to hit the ground, although I am not swift enough to catch it. My getting ready takes the form of a split second’s anticipation rather than any action.

But there is no ground for her to hit. She is standing at the very edge of the platform.

Someone screams and I hear the rumble of the train.

I look at my own feet, at the rail down below where the mice scuttle, at the lump of her, unconscious and curled in the black sump of the railway track.

Next to her is David.

More screams. Not mine, but all around me people are screaming. They are shouting words I don’t understand. I am—utterly—frozen.

“A l’aide bon Dieu! Au secours!” David shouts up at the platform. He is half standing, one leg bent and his foot under the rail, bracing. The other leg is straight, deep in the pit of the track. He has the woman in his arms, cupped like a baby, her head lolling downwards and her shawl trailing onto the rail.

The rumble of the dragon in the tunnel gets louder. A blaring noise startles everyone. In hindsight, I presumed the helpless train driver could see them in his headlights.

Three or four men get onto their knees at the edge of the platform. They drag the woman from David’s arms and pass her behind them. Once more she is right in front of me.

They pull David by his arms and shoulder blades, heave him clear a second or two before the train grinds to a screeching stop in front of us, in the spot where his shadow is still warm, where drops of his sweat are left behind on the tracks.

The woman is unconscious and people fuss around her. She is lying on her back and, through the folds of her clothes, I can see that David has saved not one life but two.

I hear myself giving instructions, loudly telling people what to do. “Tip her over. You must put her in the recovery position. She can’t lie on her back like that when she’s pregnant.” But I’m speaking in English and no one reacts. I buy every new pregnancy book that comes out, even now. I am something of a barrack-room expert.

I push past a large man who is crowding over her and start to move her into the recovery position. David shouts in rapid French and I assume he is telling those other hands to let go, that I can manage this.

I can manage; the woman is slight, even smaller than me. I assume in my racing head that she has fainted with the heat and this heavy burden of baby. Her pulse is solid, her breathing clear. I put my ear by her mouth to be sure and can see the tiny black hairs around her upper lip, the rouge on her cheeks.

A man in uniform comes along, wrenching his way through the crowds gathered around. He skitters to a halt by us and I assume he is the train driver.

David shouts across the thick crowd. “Est-ce qu’il y a un médecin ici? Elle a besoin d’un médecin.”

A woman pushes her way through the crowd and kneels beside me.

“Je suis sage-femme,” she says and puts her hand on the woman’s face.

“Je suis Anglaise,” I say before she can continue talking. Later, David tells me that she said she was a midwife, but she may as well have been a florist. I just wanted someone else to be in charge.

David pulls at my hand. “Come on.” He helps me up and out of the way. He turns towards the exit and starts to lead me through the crowd.

“Shouldn’t we wait and see if she’s all right?”

“We need to get a phone signal, call an ambulance.” He is running towards the escalator and, breathless, I trip along behind him. “I’ll run up, see you at the top.” Even in this rush he turns and smiles at me, makes sure I’m calm and on my way up into the light.

I watch him run up the escalator; a tall man, an inch or two bigger than most other people in a crowd, broad shouldered and fit. His jacket is so elegantly cut that it doesn’t really move as his elbows power like pistons and he nears the top of the long staircase. At the top he disappears and I hurry up.

“It’s OK, Grace,” he says when I get up into the foyer where we started. “The train driver sent up a signal. The ambulance is on its way.” He pulls me to him, bends over the top of my head, and buries his face in my hair. I can feel the tension ripple through him, almost smell the adrenaline. “Let’s go home.”

This humility is so very him. The last thing he would ever ask for is praise. He knows who he is and what his faults are. He plays down his strengths.

He is, in one of my few French phrases, totally bien dans sa peau: happy in his skin.

We walk back up to the street and hail a cab. The roads around us are as we left them. The air is thick and exotic, the pavement dry and dirty in spots, the outside seats of cafés full with chatter and the sounds of Paris.

It does not feel like David nearly lost his life or, worse, that I stood with my hands by my sides and almost watched him be smashed by a train, gone forever. Those things will hit us later.

* * *

We get into the apartment and lock the door tightly behind us.

In the taxi I had tried to talk about what had happened but David had shaken his head at me, one finger across his lips in a gesture of silence, of secrets. This city, his city, is a small one. It had not occurred to me that the driver might speak English.

At home, he kicks off his shoes, looks down at the knees of his linen trousers, black with grime. He walks over to the sink and washes his hands methodically, turning them around and around under the running tap, soaping them three separate times.

“Sit down, sweetheart,” I say and move behind him, my hands on either side of his waist.

“God, I’m sorry. Are you OK?” He wheels around, looks straight in my face. “You must have been terrified.”

I hold him tight and feel his arms slide around me in response, pressing my face into his chest. “Me?” I ask him. “You’re nuts. You just came within a whisker of being killed. You’re worried about me?”

“I just thought how I would feel if it was you on that track. And then, in another sense, I didn’t think at all. It was instinct. Somewhere, someone feels about her like I feel about you. I owed it to that person.”

Tears well up in my eyes and I think about how close I came to losing him, that for a few heart-stopping moments I’d been convinced that would be how tonight ended. I can’t bring myself to think about the way that would play out, how mourning David would even begin.

I shudder and grip him tighter. David kisses the top of my head and loosens his hold on me. “I think we need a brandy.” He is smiling again, color has returned to his face, and his skin looks smooth and soft.

“Drink this, darling,” he says, and puts a round goblet into my hands. I realize I am trembling.

I blow into the brandy and feel the fumes flood my face. My cheeks redden. I take a sip.

David holds his glass in one large hand. With the other, he reaches across and pops the catch on the balcony doors. He tucks them back into the walls and the noise of the river, of the city, floats in to join us. It is wonderfully calming.

The apartment has one bedroom, just along the chalk-white corridor, and a bathroom designed for indulgence. David talks about letting clients use the apartment when necessary, but, as far as I know, none of them ever has. Just in case, though, it retains this elegant air, this impersonal but classic Paris feel, from the moment you step out of the art deco elevator, all dragging iron doors and colored glass, to the floor-to-ceiling balcony doors with their hazy drapes.

The fifth-floor windows overlook Passy Cemetery on one side and the river Seine on the other. If you could crane your neck around the next corner, the edges of the next-door apartment, you would see the Eiffel Tower; as it is, you have to rely on trust that it is there.

“The concert was something else,” David says, and I realize I’d forgotten all about it in the crisis.

“Did you know it would be ‘La Follia’ when you booked it?” I’m curious; Corelli’s version of the little folk tune is in my all-time top ten of music, but I can’t remember telling David that.

“Of course I knew.” He is on the balcony, leaning with his back against it and looking in through the tall gap at me. “It’s almost always in your CD player and, when I came over last time, the dots were on your music stand.”

“I’m so grateful. I love it so much.”

“That’s not why, though.” He wrinkles his forehead up and under the dark fringe that almost touches his eyebrows. “?‘La Follia,’ the madness, that’s the song that plays in my head every time I see you walk into a room.”

He looks down as he says it. It isn’t intended as a boast; he’s almost embarrassed at the intimacy, the romance. “Right, make yourself busy, darling. I need to change these filthy trousers. I want to shower, too. Will you be OK? I won’t be more than fifteen minutes.”

“I’ve got plenty I need to do,” I say. “I haven’t checked the shop emails all day.” I don’t want him to be distracted worrying about me, so I mention these mundane things with a calm I don’t really feel.

I open the laptop amid the noise of David’s shower, the water playing on the tiled floor in the background. The sounds of having him nearby make me feel content, loved.

When I’m in France, my laptop home screen shows the headlines from Metronews; it’s not too highbrow for my feeble French, and translating the stories helps me develop my language skills. I need little translation to understand the front-page story of this evening.

CCTV images capture the grainy shape of a man on the Metro track. It could be anyone. I click through to the story. L’homme-mystère and héros du soir are pretty clear, even to me. I manage to decipher that the young woman is fine, that she fainted in the heat and is eternally grateful to David for saving her.

There is a Paris-wide appeal to find the man and thank him for his bravery. The news has been dark and miserable lately, and what David did seems to have given Paris an antidote. A banner flashes up across the bottom of the screen: Qui était-il?

None of the pictures are clear enough to be certain that it’s David. The crowds were heavy, but one can certainly see that the man is unusually tall, and that he has thick dark hair and an elegant light-colored suit. No one would be able to see his smaller, unremarkable girlfriend or pick her out by her ordinary short hair, feathered around the fringe and sides, or her neat, green skirt.

Lower down the page I notice a grainy still with a black square across it and inside the black square, a white arrow. My fingers are tense on the keyboard. It is a video clip from the station’s security system.

When I press play, David is bounding up the escalator, unmistakably David for anyone who knows him. Behind him, inelegant, and not nearly as fast, a small woman in a bright-colored skirt scurries to keep up.

Anyone would know it was him, us. You can see by the way he glances back that he has a vested interest in the woman behind him. Anyone could tell we are a couple.

Even his wife.

Even his children.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Goodbye, Paris includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Anstey Harris. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Jojo Moyes meets Eleanor Oliphant in Goodbye, Paris, an utterly charming novel that proves that sometimes you have to break your heart to make it whole.

Grace once had the beginnings of a promising musical career, but she hasn’t been able to play her cello publicly since a traumatic event at music college years ago. Since then, she’s built a quiet life for herself in her small English village, repairing instruments and nurturing her long-distance affair with David, the man who has helped her rebuild her life even as she puts her dreams of a family on hold until his children are old enough for him to leave his loveless marriage.

But when David saves the life of a woman in the Paris Metro, his resulting fame shines a light onto the real state of the relationship(s) in his life. Shattered, Grace hits rock bottom and abandons everything that has been important to her, including her dream of entering and winning the world’s most important violin-making competition. Her closest friends—a charming elderly violinist with a secret love affair of his own, and her store clerk, a gifted but angst-ridden teenage girl—step in to help, but will their friendship be enough to help her pick up the pieces?

Filled with lovable, quirky characters, this poignant novel explores the realities of relationships and heartbreak and shows that when it comes to love, there’s more than one way to find happiness.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss David’s actions at the train station and the ensuing social media frenzy to uncover his identity. Do you see this action as the catalyst for the events that take place in the rest of the novel?

2. Grace and David have opposite reactions when they learn about the pregnancy. Did David’s reaction give you any clues to how he might behave in the future? What did you make of Grace’s special project she was making for her baby?

3. How did Grace’s time spent at university affect the course of her life? What role did her parents play in her path?

4. When Grace plays the cello, she finds herself in an almost trancelike state. What affect do you think playing music has on her? Are there any activities you enjoy where you feel the same way?

5. Grace decides to read Nadia’s diary out of an abundance of curiosity. Do you agree with her decision to read the diary? And how does the information that Grace discovers through reading affect her relationship with Nadia?

6. Discuss David’s confession in Paris, and Grace’s reaction to the news. Did you have your suspicions about David, or did his confession come as a surprise to you? How would you have reacted if you were in Grace’s position?

7. Grace is determined to fix Alan’s violin after the incident in the music shop, but Mr. Williams tells her to focus on the Cremona cello. Why do you think he made that decision?

8. On page 156, Grace thinks, “It dawns on me like daybreak that there are no winners in love affairs, however well-meaning.” Do you agree with that sentiment? In your opinion, is Grace happier before or after the Paris confession?

9. After running into Shota in Cremona, Grace has a renewed sense of confidence and contentment. How much of this change can be attributed to the setting, and how much to the chance encounter with an important person in her past?

10. In Chapter 21, we discover the truth about Nikolai Dernov. What did you think of Grace’s reaction to the news? How does this change the way she views the past?

11. After a surprise win at the Cremona Triennale, Grace confronts one of her biggest fears. What factors contributed to her overcoming her anxiety?

12. Compare Grace’s relationships at the beginning and end of the novel. How have Grace’s social needs evolved over time?

13. Discuss Grace’s relationship with Nadia. Does Grace see Nadia as a daughter figure, or a friend? How do you think Grace will continue to support Nadia in the future?

14. Mr. Williams and Grace have experienced similar heartbreak, but reacted in different ways. What can they learn from each other when it comes to love and friendship?

15. At the end of the novel, Grace must say goodbye to Paris one last time. What else is she saying goodbye to, and how does this mark a new beginning for her?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. The city of Cremona, Italy, plays a large role toward the end of Goodbye, Paris. Dive in to the rich musical history of the area and learn more about the coveted art of violin making. Bonus points: Read The Art of Violin Making by Chris Johnson or watch the documentary Strad Style or the film The Red Violin.

2. “La Follia” and the “Libertango” define Grace’s attitudes in life throughout the course of the novel. Dig in to the origins of both songs: who were the composers, and what were the songs originally intended to evoke? Bring recordings of each song to book club and listen to them; how do they make you feel?

3. Part of the joy that Mr. Williams brings into Grace’s life is the joy of hearty, homemade food. Task a member (or two or three!) of your book club to make some of the dishes mentioned in the book, including biscuits, cheesy pastries, and homemade pickles.

4. Paris has served as inspiration for a number of authors. Discuss how other books characterize the city, and how they compare to Goodbye, Paris. Suggestions include: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy, and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

A Conversation with Anstey Harris

Can you tell me about your research process for Goodbye, Paris? Did anything surprise you?

Mr. Williams came as a complete surprise to me. There are times in the writing process when things seem to be out of the writer’s hands, when the characters become so lively—and the story world so real—that things seem to happen by themselves. Mr. Williams was one of those moments: he literally knocked on the door of the shop! I didn’t know who he was or what his role would be but I knew he was important and that Grace should open the door and let him in.

When I first wrote Nadia, I was living with three angry teenaged girls (my own two daughters and my stepdaughter—our boys seemed easier somehow!) and it was easy to channel their frustration into Nadia. What surprised me, and what was a useful reminder at the time, was her tenderness and her kindness, albeit veiled in swagger. I think it’s helpful to remember that our own teenagers also have that uncertainty and vulnerability underneath all the layers of bluster.

Sadly, the Nikolai Dernov situation was all too real, but I was surprised by the number of female musicians who told me about experiences of sexual assault at college and in their professional life. One woman, a professional violin player, told me that she’d been made aware of the ‘casting couch’ at almost every audition she’d been to: an awful situation.

What was your writing process like when you wrote the novel? If you encountered writer’s block, how did you break through?

I didn’t have writer’s block when writing this novel—the story tipped out in a rush. What took time were the rewrites and the edits: so much of writing is in the rewriting. I always tell my students (and I don’t know where this comes from but I didn’t make it up) that a first draft is heaping sand into the sandbox—once all the sand is in, you can start to make a castle. After lots of shaping and remodeling, you get to the point where you can decorate it with seaweed and shells and, eventually, a Popsicle stick in the top.

Which character do you identify with most, and why?

I think it would have to be Nadia, although I think it’s fair to say there’s a little bit of the author in most characters we create. I certainly found my teenage years as confusing and isolating as Nadia does.

I identify with Grace in terms of her passion for music. I would love to have Grace’s talent—and her dedication and commitment. I started playing the cello when I was eleven and did anything I could to wriggle out of practice and lessons. I’ve had various teachers as an adult and have got to the dizzying heights of the average seven-year-old.

I would hate to have self-esteem as low as Grace’s, although there have been times when my younger self was on a similar level. Again, kindness is key—if we treat our children right as they are growing up, they can grow terrific armor against such things!

You capture the essence of small-town England, Paris, France, and Cremona, Italy, so beautifully. Have you spent time in those locations yourself?

I’ve been to Cremona twice as my husband is a violin maker who has entered the Triennale twice. He is entering again this year (third time lucky?). It’s a magical place: I’m torn between urging you all to go and keeping it for myself.

Paris is etched in my heart and I go there as often as I can. At least once a year, usually more. We live in a small town on the south coast of England so we can actually drive to Paris and back on less than a tank of gas. There is nowhere in the world quite like Paris. I do really believe what Grace says, that Paris—more than any other city—knows about love. Places I’d recommend if you want to feel the heart of Paris beating include Père Lachaise cemetery, Le Marais, Le Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques (only in Paris, really; only the Parisians could bury their pets with such élan) which is in Asnières-sur-Seine, where Grace and David have their breakup, and the cool quiet interior of the Sacre Coeur.

I live in a sleepy town, not dissimilar to Grace’s. Her community is a combination of where I live now and the last town I lived in.

Your description of playing the cello is enchanting. Do you have experience playing the instrument, or any other instruments? Are there any songs that you love playing in particular?

I adore music and would love to be a significant player. As it is, I struggle with even the most basic of tunes despite a lifetime’s best efforts.

I love the cello above all other instruments. Last year I bought the album Inspiration by Sheku Kanneh-Mason and it’s fabulous (he has since played at the royal wedding and achieved the profile he so deserves). I like classical music that can engage people like me rather than experts. And I like the same thing in fiction.

When we moved to this little town by the sea, I had an office on the third floor of our house. I was typing away at Grace’s story when I looked up and saw a man playing the cello in the window opposite. That man was the world-famous cellist Matthew Sharp, who was living in Deal at the time. It is a German version of Matthew (Matthieu Scharf) who plays Grace’s cello in the winners’ concert. When Matt and his family moved on from Deal, they held a party where he played the cello. That was the first time I heard the “Libertango.”

I notice that a lot of your previous works are short fiction, for which you have won numerous accolades and awards. Did Goodbye, Paris originate as a short story that grew into a novel, or did you always intend for Grace’s story to be novel length?

Grace’s story was always going to be a novel. I wrote the first draft of it as the dissertation for my Master’s degree at the Manchester Writing School. I chose Manchester as it was one of the few institutions that required a full novel to pass the course. Others required only three chapters and a synopsis and I didn’t see that as challenging enough.

You mention on GoodReads that you write about “things that make people tick, the things that bind us, and the things that can rip us apart.” In regards to Grace, what do you think makes her tick?

Grace is defined by her overwhelming lack of self-belief. I see this as a consequence of her time with Nikolai, an experience that could have been so much worse if her parents hadn’t given her such a grounding of love and support. Grace is a talented artist, both in her music and her making, and I think a degree of self-doubt is imperative in turning that talent into success. If we don’t question our own abilities sometimes, I don’t think we can create true art. It’s important to be able to critique yourself—Grace, for a while, lost the balance in that, but meeting Shota again and hearing the truth restored it.

I read that you enjoy cooking in your downtime. Did that serve partially as your inspiration for Mr. Williams’s character? If you were on the Great British Baking Show, what would be your showstopper?

I think I associate cooking with caring—I’m not sure what that says about me! I had the idea from the very start that David would, subtly, control Grace’s eating as part of their particular and peculiar relationship. Mr. Williams is the antithesis of that, using cooking as kindness and part of Grace’s recovery in a physical—as well as emotional—sense.

My showstopper would absolutely be pear and frangipane tart with cardamom, and I’d serve it with homemade rhubarb and custard ice cream. I adore cooking and feeding people. This year, we are building a pizza oven in our garden and can’t wait to fire it up with friends (and wine). I love the Bake Off, even the new Channel 4 version (which I don’t know if you have).

I was so inspired by the setting of Cremona toward the end of the novel. Do you believe in the power of a location to change your perspective on life? Have you felt that way about any location you’ve visited in the past?

A. The place that most changed my perspective on life was Iceland. I went there twenty years ago—when tourism on the island was still in its infancy—with my children. The whole country is so steeped in magic and fairy tale; it feels like a whole different planet. I returned two years ago with my husband and we rode Icelandic horses through the volcanic landscape—one of the most moving experiences of my life.

There’s a lot left uncertain at the end of Goodbye, Paris. Is there a chance that Grace, Nadia, and Mr. Williams might return in future work?

Sadly I think the only way that these guys would get back together for another novel would be for a funeral. And I don’t think you want that . . .

You paint Grace as a sympathetic and delicate character in her relationship with David. While writing, were you conscious of making sure to hit the right chord with their relationship?

This was the greatest challenge of the novel. I wanted to take a character that we are hardwired to despise (in this case, “the mistress”) and add in enough personal circumstances, life experience, and character that we could start to believe in her and her choices, however poor those choices might be.

I have long been fascinated with the way society depicts women in literature (and art)—where you can be the Madonna or Lady Macbeth and rarely anything in between. I wanted to write something that tilted our perceptions of women and their societal roles. I wanted to write about the power of kindness and the fact that we don’t know ANYONE until we’ve walked in their shoes. People are rarely who you think on first meeting them . . .

It was also important to me to paint David’s wife, Dominique-Marie, as a woman in control of her own life and family rather than a passive victim.

About The Author

Copyright Anstey Harris

Anstey Harris teaches creative writing in Kent, England. Her short stories have been widely published in anthologies and online and she was the winner of the H.G. Wells Short Story Prize in 2015. Anstey lives in Kent, England, and is the mother of singer-songwriter Lucy Spraggan.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (October 1, 2019)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501196515

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"As elegant and uplifting as a classical sonata, with added kick from its unforgettably quirky characters. I was both engrossed in and moved by this fabulous debut."

– Catherine Isaac, author of You Me Everything

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