Friday, May 10, 2013

Review: Paris - A Love Story

Kati Marton is well known to many of us from her work as a TV news correspondent.  In this brutally honest memoir we meet a woman who professes a love affair with a city.  It is in Paris that she feels most at home.  It is in Paris that she finds her most exciting memories.  So it is to Paris that the story continually returns.  That said, the story still did nothing to inspire any awe of the city in me.  She speaks well of restaurants, apartments, all the glitterati she and her two husbands met with, but gave me nothing I could relate to or wish to journey to see.

As the daughter of Hungarian journalists, who were imprisoned by the Soviets during the Hungarian revolution in the 1950's and later escaped,  her roots are essentially European.  Her language skills are excellent.  She tells the story of her early womanhood from the perspective of her student days, then early career days careening around Paris.
There's barely a mention of her first young, ill-advised and quickly ended marriage.

When she goes to work for ABC, she finds herself enjoying assignments around the world, meeting famous and important people.  Her relationship to Peter Jennings, (ABC's European bureau chief and technically her boss) blossoms in spite of the fact that he was still married.  But she speaks of their 14 years of marriage, their children, their divorce, and his subsequent death from lung cancer almost dispassionately.

There is somewhat more passion and emotion on display when she writes of her second marriage to career diplomat Richard Holbrooke.  Together they live a fairy tale, always returning to Paris whenever they had the chance.  His unexpected death from an aortic dissection in 2010 left her bereft.  She sold her apartment in New York, and returned to Paris.

The entire story however, including her confession to infidelity during her marriage, is written with a news reporter's detachment.  I couldn't help but wonder if this was written to justify her actions to herself, to work through some grief she couldn't internalize (or externalize?) or if it was just another reporting exercise--perhaps that's the only writing style she's capable of.  She certainly shared life with two of the most able, glamorous, intelligent, and competent men of her generation.  It's a shame we couldn't have seen more passion in her description of them. It's an okay book, one that is full of information, but to me at least, lacking in the emotion that one would expect from a woman in these circumstances.

A memorable quote : (when she wrote of her mourning after Holbrooke's death)
“For months letters arrive each day.” But Marton noticed a handwritten note, “addressed to Mrs. Richard C. Holbrooke in the tiniest handwriting I have ever seen.” It said: “I woke up this morning and thought of you, and of all the mornings you will wake up without Richard. Signed, Joan Didion.”

Title: Paris: A Love Story
Author: Kati Marton
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, paperback 224 pages
Genre: memoir
Subject: life and marriages of Kati Marton
Setting: world-wide
Source: Public libraries
Why did I read this book now? I enjoy memoirs, and was a fan of both her husbands.


  1. I like memoirs unless they're whiny, and certainly Kati Marton who has lost two husbands would have a right to whine. However, it sounds like she has gone too much the other way and by doing so taken the life and passion out of her memoir. What a shame. I may try it anyway but it sounds like she cut the heart out of her memories.

  2. You could be right about this. I actually listened to her speak at my library-her husband's death truly devastated her. I did enjoy the book.


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