Just as I reluctantly left Paris years ago after an internship at a museum there, I regretted reaching the last pages of Paris, He Said a novel, by Christine Sneed. How to let go of characters whose feelings were so familiar and whose responses mattered so much to me? I knew a few of those characters well, not only because Sneed pulled us into their lives and thoughts, but also because Paris helped shape those lives as it did mine. Living and participating in Parisian life, especially within the arts communities, forces one to see herself in the realm of different expectations. Jayne Marks, a visual artist struggling to ‘make it’ in New York City’s defensive and trend-driven art world, attracts a French gallery owner who, becoming her lover, invites her to live with him in Paris’ Eighth Arrondissment. She will work on her painting and in his gallery.
Once there and increasingly involved in her lover’s work and social circles over nearly a year, Jayne begins to identify her real needs and ambitions. Will all her loose ends be knotted together in the future? Sneed leaves me wondering. And that’s fine, a good way to measure how much I cared about Jayne, and also about her parents, her girlfriends, and her erstwhile boyfriend Colin.
Although Sneed crafts the book effectively—Part One: author’s perspective on Jayne; Part II: author’s perspective on her lover, Laurent; and Part III: Jayne’s notes—Laurent remains somewhat enigmatic, a sophisticated traditionalist professing to know himself and live only in the present. Jayne surpasses him in that regard. I admire how the novel’s structure physically underscores Jayne’s growing self-knowledge and her focus. In the end I am happy for her, but I will miss her very much.