Deirdre Kelly’s love affair with Paris began at an early age.
Her Paris Times Eight: Finding Myself in the City of Dreams follows Kelly’s eight trips to the French capital, from a visit as as 19-year-old au pair to one with her future husband to her latest trip as a mother of two.
The book reflects on each of the very different trips, and paints a surprising, yet beautiful picture of how Kelly’s life evolved and changed each time she landed at Charles de Gaulle airport.
Kelly, a feature writer for The Globe and Mail and such glossies as Vogue, Marie Claire and Elle, has always had a knack for putting pen to paper, the desire to write about her Parisian adventures came as a real “genesis movement” a few years back when she was stricken with a rare disease leaving her unable to walk.
Unable to live as she was used to, the longtime East York resident reflected on her travels.
“Only at that moment did I reflect on my own past,” the first-time author says. “I was counting the times I had been to Paris and I realized Paris was never the same city twice.
“I realized it was because of me.”
The eight trips included her stint as an au pair in 1979, a fresh university graduate in the early 1980s, then as a newbie journalist later in the decade. One with her mother another time, with her future husband during another trip and lastly in 2007 with her two children.
But out of the number of enchanting European cities there are, what was the allure of Paris that attracted Kelly?
It wasn’t always la vie en rose, says Kelly who grew up in Thorncliffe Park and attended Thorncliffe Park Public School.
“Paris was different for me. Paris was a place I often felt like an outsider in.”
The mother of a seven- and 10-year-old was able to write the memoir once she was able to come to terms with what Paris represented to her.
Reflecting on the eight visits over the past 30 years proved not to be an easy feat.
Kelly has always loved writing; she was singled out when she was in grade 3 for her writing, she recalls.
“It made me feel special. It made me feel I had a point of view.”
Her mother had a different idea of what she wanted from Kelly, and writing wasn’t in the cards.
“She wanted me to be a lawyer, to make money.”
Even with her background, Paris Times Eight wasn’t as easy.
“It was a journey deep within myself,” says Kelly who started the book two years ago. It was published by Greystone Books, a division of D&M Publishers.
Since the book’s debut, Kelly has appeared at a number of book signings and readings throughout Toronto, and further away in New York City.
She hasn’t been back to Paris — yet.
Through the writing, Kelly said she was forced to ask questions of herself and her experiences.
“I know that through all these years the city is more than just a city to me,” Kelly says. “For me, it is a symbol of the things I hold dear.”
Paris, she continues, is the only city in the entire world where she feels her own mortality.
It’s no surprise then that Kelly had, at one time or another, thought she would eventually call the city her permanent home.
“I hated Toronto growing up,” Kelly says. “But like it or not, Toronto is my city.
“Toronto is my real, my every day.”
Still, there’s something about Paris.
To list all that she loves about Paris — from the Eiffel Tower to the Champs-Élysées — would fill the Louvre.
She loves the allusive qualities the city offers. The scenery, the fountains that dot many a corner and no doubt the food – from chocolate brioches to the red wine.
“You don’t have to be rich to partake in some of that beauty,” says Kelly, who hopes readers take away the life lessons learned in the book.
The book isn’t a simple travelogue — see this, taste that — it’s a coming of age tale about a woman finding herself.
And will she return for a ninth visit?
“I will always go back,” Kelly says.
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