Book Review of “That Summer In Paris” By Abha Dawesar

That Summer In Paris

By Abha Dawesar


It’s true that aspiring writers idolize successful ones. And who wouldn’t jump on an opportunity to spend time with the figure they most respect. Abha’s novel “That Summer In Paris” shows a very intricate and unexpected relationship of an aging author with a much younger budding writer who share their love and passion for art and creativity.

We have Maya – a twenty five year old, ambitious, intelligent, budding writer, passionate about art and obsessed with the novels of fictional Indian-born Nobel Prize winner author Prem Rustum who cites him in her personal ad (Worship at his altar like I do) and of course this meets Prem’s eye eventually. After undergoing a bad breakup a year ago, Maya discovers life’s completeness in Prems’ books. So much so that she doesn’t miss human company.

Prem Rustum, the seventy-fiver year old author having lived a reclusive life consumed with his writing, decides to live his remaining years differently, preferably in female company. He puts down his pen and takes to the internet only to discover Maya’s open and blatant admiration for his work.

Fascinated by her confession and charm Prem decides to meet her. Their affinity and connection is almost instant and quite stimulating, despite the fact that Prem is impotent and Maya nubile. When Maya talks about her trip to Paris for a fiction writing fellowship, Prem admits of his plans to travel to Paris to visit his French writer friend Pascal, much to his own surprise.

Maya is thrilled to be spending a whole lot of time with the person she has always admired the most. They take a three-month trip to Paris, indulge in food, art, literature, love and eventually sex. It is somewhat thrilling to see them getting turned on while passionately talking about literature and admiring art.

Though she meets a young man her heart yearns for Prems’ company. Prem too sees himself falling in love with her but is worried that he might affect their sentiments for each other.

Maya feels entranced when Prem touches her in front of a Degas painting. Prem too reflects on his mortality, desires, longings and reminisces his past.

He unfolds his past – talks about his first love –his sister Meher and then his affair at sixty –five with two sixteen year old French girls. But his love for Maya engulfs him and rekindles desires that were forgotten – morally, mentally and physically.

Abha has beautifully explored different facets of human nature, in one of the most romantic cities of the world –Paris. Her deep observation strikingly reflects in the very apt description of  various cafes, restaurants, people, food, museums, paintings, and art not only highlights the beauty and skill of Abha’s writing but also brings to light the hidden aspects of human desire, passion, achievement, literature, relationships, love and of course life! Art, love, literature and the need for companionship are the central theme of this gripping novel set in New York and Paris.

Abha has quite beautifully penned the dialogues between Prem and his writer friend Pascal. The eloquent banter is quite interesting to read. Like a fan admitted (and I agree), Abha’s melodic writing style and knack for provocative prose rarely disappoints and keeps the pages turning.

Maya is a very relatable and vibrant character. Beautiful, intellectual, kind and ambitious. Prem resembles a fine renowned author with similar taste. The sensitivity portrayed by Abha in the characters and the theme and the entire story is truly incredible. I only wish their love wasn’t unrequited.

 

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