From the bestselling author of From France with Love, this funny, poignant and profoundly moving memoir about love, grief, friendship, travel and renewal is Eat, Pray, Love for Francophiles.
Renowned journalist Nadine Williams is heart-broken following the untimely death of her French-born husband, Olivier. Long-time friend Jane, alarmed at Nadine's despair, suggests a return to France to restore her joie de vivre.
Their journey from Barcelona to Paris is peppered with hilarious battles about food, fashion and French culture, which challenge their friendship. But slowly the fun of travelling together in the glorious Loire Valley, Provence and Paris begins to lift Nadine's sadness.
Alone again, Paris spins magical happenings in Nadine's life. She steps into la quartier Latin and enters the exciting worlds of independent French women, both past and present. When she meets a French man, who resembles Olivier, she faces a conundrum. Does she want another man to share her future? Or will she define herself as a widow and allow her former life of love and marriage to fall away? Finally, she reflects that suffering loss is the legacy of her love story and that fond memories will heal her heart.
Award-winning journalist Nadine Williams forged an eclectic career over her twenty years at Adelaide's The Advertiser, focusing on social issues, women's issues and relationships between the sexes. She was also chief reporter for the popular Looking Forward, now Boomer magazine for readers over fifty. Nadine has been awarded the Centenary Medal and the Mitchell Media Award, and in 2016 she was awarded an OAM for her services to the print media in SA. She is the mother of three adult children.
Farewell My French Love
Author: Nadine Williams
Question: Why did you decide to write Farewell My French Love?
Nadine Williams: I began to write my memoir in a bid to purge my grief which had crippled me since the untimely death of my French-born husband, Olivier Foubert. I couldn't understand the despair and depression which engulfed me because I had been a high profile journalist at the Advertiser for 20 years. I had been a confident, successful person and had written about grief in the newspaper and had interviewed many grieving people when I wrote obituaries for the paper. I thought I understood that grief was transient. Yet, I was crushed and I couldn't shake off my despair.
I thought if I began writing about my feelings, I might feel better. Then my long-time Sydney friend Jane alarmed at my continuing grief, suggested I return to France and she would accompany me. I did want to relive the wonderful times I had with Olivier in France, where we travelled every year. We had had our honeymoon in the Loire Valley and I wanted to show Jane the most beautiful region of France for its beauty and gorgeous Renaissance chateaux of the Louis kings of France. I had studied the Renaissance queens and mistresses of France and I wanted to revisit the castles where they lived their lives.
Question: What did you find difficult during the writing process of Farewell My French Love?
Nadine Williams: There were moments when I thought I must walk away from writing my memoir – it was so emotionally painful. And the other concern was how to document the difficult times I had with Jane during our travels in Barcelona and France. Jane's friendship was as precious as a pearl and yet we clashed over different food attitudes, fashion, and French culture. Travelling together exposed profound differences and to compound things – I was still grieving and very vulnerable. I didn't want to lose my friendship, which was sorely tested at times during our travels, but I also needed to be authentic and describe how I felt at the time. I discovered on our travels that I didn't really know Jane because she lived in Sydney and whilst our friendship was of 20 years' duration, our times together were intermittent. I am happy to write in my memoir that the friendship survived and, in a strange way, our differences and our bid to remain kind and forgiving to each other catapaulted me right out of my treadmill mindset of grief and mourning for Olivier. My sense of loss was profound – and yet la vie quotidienne, the daily life, needed me to remain in the present.
Question: And more importantly what was the best part about writing Farewell My French Love?
Nadine Williams: Revisiting our honeymoon and reliving some wonderful memories really helped my heart to heal. I had lived this very romantic holiday in the Loire with my husband on our honeymoon and it was exhilarating to be there once more with Jane.
When Harlequin the publishers bought my memoir, they suggested that I should write more about Olivier because the readers would want to know more about him, rather than simply reading about him in the prologue. When I found the diary of my honeymoon in the Loire Valley and our travels in France, I relived those delicious moments with Jane. Later, back in Australia, I wrote it all up – my honeymoon and then my experiences with Jane visiting Chenonceau, the fairytale castle of the 15th century mistress of King Henri II, Diane de Poitiers, and Chambord, that folly to the French king Francois 1. Jane and I hired an independent tour guide who took us to Villandry, which created our own first-time experiences. Over those three days, when our pleasant French guide, Charlotte, leading the way, I finally threw off my sadness and began, once more to live wholly in the present moment. Olivier was always there, or so Jane tells me. 'There are three of us on this holiday," she said – and she didn't mean Charlotte.
After Jane returned to Australia, I remained in Paris alone boarding with a French woman in the Left Bank. I learnt French at Alliance Francaise each day and found myself walking the same streets as famous French writers like Simone de Beauvoir. I was living an independent life spending time with my own newfound French women friends. I had lived that rite of passage through grief and had learnt to enjoy life as a wonderful gift.
I understood that Olivier had given me an amazing legacy – a love of France and French culture, which I could continue to enjoy. Finally, I accepted that suffering loss is the legacy of having loved.
Question: What's next, for you?
Nadine Williams: I think my memoir has an important message to convey that friendship, family, new pursuits and the experience of travel can help you recover from grief. Although each story of suffering is different, there are some 'bones'' which can help us rebuild our lives. For me, Olivier's memorial garden continues to be a source of joy and memory. I joined Adelaide's Lyceum Club, a women's group which has circles of interest to attend and I travelled overseas to enjoy the international loife of the club including in France.
Although I live alone, my adult children all live in Melbourne and I visit them regularly. I live a full life. I am happy again. Grief is only a season in our life, but it has the capacity to disable a person's ability to re-engage with life because of chronic depression and despair.
I want to spread this message and I hope it helps many people to know that despite the suffering now, there is a future happiness beyond the season of grief and loss.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Farewell My French Love
Author: Nadine Williams