Paris: A Love Story is a memoir by Kati Marton. The author and former journalist has led an interesting life, and le fil conducteur (luh feel kondooktur), or the common thread, through it all has been Paris. Marton begins the book with a last weekend in Paris before the sudden death of her husband, former UN Ambassador and life-time diplomat Richard Holbrooke. Marton says, “In a life of multiple uprooting, Paris has been my one fixed point.” She then flashes back through the important stages of her life with Paris as the background, first as a student during the uprising in May 1968, then as her regular rendezvous during her tempestuous life with her first husband, journalist Peter Jennings, before returning to the story of her life with Holbrooke.
Marton is on first-name basis with every important journalist or political figure in half the countries of the world. Her name dropping isn’t self-conscious, but rather a simple recitation of the friends she accumulated through a life-time rich in experiences. One of those friends was Bernard Kouchner, the co-founder of Médecins sans Frontier and former French Minister of Health. It was he who drove Marton around on his motor bike when she and Holbrooke were looking for a Paris apartment of their own. Holbrooke declared “Katy is more Katy in Paris than anywhere else.” This is how I feel – more myself in Paris. When she found a little gem on the rue des Écoles she described herself as “wild with joy that [she] finally owned a little piece of Paris.” Their favorite haunt became Le Coupe-Chou that I’ll have to check out on my next trip to Paris (9 – 11 rue de Lanneau). The two enjoyed shopping at Hartwood (40 rue du Bac), for elegant and classic French tailoring. After his death, Marton gave up their homes in New York and moved to Paris full-time. Her jogging route takes her down the same street where my daughter lived when she was a student in Paris. She and I have both hung out at Le Rostand café on the top edge of the jardin du Luxembourg.
The memoir is a blend of places I know well and people I know only through the news. It’s less about Paris that I expected from the title and more about a life lived fully but not always without regret. Those regrets do not include her marriage to Holbrooke nor the time she continues to spend in Paris. Just as le fil conducteur through Marton’s life has been Paris, the same fil connects her to me and to all those who are more themselves in Paris than anywhere else.
- What Would Richard Holbrooke Say? (antiwar.com)