|The Art of Regret by Mary Fleming
My review today is for The Art of Regret by Mary Flemming.
Now in his late 30’s, Trevor McFarquhar lives a controlled, contrary existence. Traumatized by early childhood loss, the silence surrounding those losses, and then a sudden family relocation from the United States to France, he has no ambitions for his struggling Parisian bicycle shop or himself. His romantic relationships are only casual; his friendships, few. He’s both aloof and exacting, holding everyone to his own high standards while being unforgiving of their faults. But then, in the midst of the 1995 Paris Transit Strike, Trevor himself makes an unforgivable mistake. Humbled and ashamed, his veneer cracks, and he slowly emerges from his cocoon to reconnect, to rediscover possibility, and ultimately to redeem himself.
This book had intrigue from the start. I love a complex character who has issues; someone who doesn’t conform or fit in and Trevor McFarquhar is complex. An American who was raised in Paris from a young age, following the traumatic loss of his sister and father, he has a difficult relationship with his step-father, is disdainful of his mother and brother and intrigued by his sister-in-law. Feeling neither French nor American, Trevor exists in his own world, a world consisting of his minimalist studio, as bare of possessions as he is of emotions and a bike shop that he inherited but never really feels ownership of. He keeps all relationships at a distance and has few friends.
The 1995 transport strike in Paris is a pivotal point for Trevor, saving his business as the bicycle becomes popular. However, the madness of the moment takes over and he makes a mistake, subsequently losing touch with his family, until an unexpected call from his brother a few years later. His actions have changed him and as they try to come to terms with a new family dynamic, he begins to get the answers to questions from his past, but time is running out to make sense of everything that happened in his early years.
I enjoyed watching his character unravel, discovering his history and pain from the past, never really knowing where it was leading me. There is a lot of sadness in this book, but I was ever hopeful that Trevor would be able to make sense of his life, come to terms with his losses and become someone who is able to connect with those around him, rather than push them away.
Paris of the 1990’s also plays its part in this book as Trevor takes us between the rue des Martyrs where he lives, near to the Sacré Coeur, to the grand apartment on the rue de Verneuil in the 7ème where his mother and step-father live, not to mention the many bistros and cafés he frequents and quiet corners he walks. If you enjoy reading about complex relationships and want to wander the backroads of Paris through the pages of a book, this could be for you.
About the author:
Mary Fleming, originally from Chicago, moved to Paris in 1981, where she worked as a freelance journalist and consultant. Before turning full-time to writing fiction, she was the French representative for the American foundation The German Marshall Fund. A long-time board member of the French Fulbright Commission, Mary continues to serve on the board of Bibliothèques sans Frontières. Having raised five children, she and her husband now split their time between Paris and Normandy. THE ART OF REGRET is her second novel. Find her online at her website here.