Today on Compositions, I welcome author and Paris-lover, Susan Winkler. Her new book, Portrait of a Woman in White, is set in WWII Paris. She joins us today to chat about how her love of Paris began with the movie Gigi.
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I fell in love with Paris when I was very young and saw the movie Gigi, at an outdoor drive-in with my parents and grandparents, in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Portland, with our 3 black and white TV channels was all I knew, so Gigi’s Paris and the belle époque offered another window onto life that yearned to explore.
I was 18 when I first traveled to Paris, to spend a summer, and stayed for the next year and beyond studying literature, art, linguistics, and of course, life. Outside my small academic program, many of my friends were journalists and filmmakers who flocked to Paris from around the world. I wrote for an American newsletter and had a press pass to the Venice and Cannes film festivals. When I came back and began grad school in French literature at Stanford, I missed Paris terribly.
There is something about the abroad experience when you are young, and not traveling with mom and dad, that can feed the imagination forever. I was predisposed to love the city, it’s attention to visual detail, and its incomparable beauty. Plus, I love speaking the language and becoming someone else when I am there.
I was very fortunate, over 20 years ago, to be asked by a publisher to write a guidebook to Paris (The Paris Shopping Companion), allowing me to endlessly explore my favorite city. But no matter how many trips I make, I never get to the bottom of my must-do list. So much to see, eat, do!
In my new novel, PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN IN WHITE, I explore WWII France, lovers, and a Matisse painting looted by Nazis.