The Four Women is an unusual book to define; I have chosen to call it magical realism.
It is set in Paris and revolves around a young couple who are deeply in love. Mats is an artist from Germany, and Grace is a writer. Grace has been befriended by four Parisian women: Ludivine, Marion, Véronique and Eléonore. They are an eclectic mystical group who know details about Grace and Mats that leave Grace feeling uncomfortable.
Mats has been lucky, and Paris has inspired his art; Madam Dumas will take every painting he can create. Grace leaves Mats alone each day while she roams Paris in search of her own muse. Unable to speak French, Grace is persuaded by her new friends to take lessons from a revered teacher, Alexander Martel. His teaching methods are bizarre; if Grace is to accept his help, he tells her, the lessons will be free but the cost may be ‘priceless’. A statement that puzzled Grace , but one she would understand later.
The four women made me think of the Greek furies as well as the role of the fates in a person’s life. I appreciated the author’s choice of character names, particularly when I investigated their meanings. The story is both simple and complex, leaving me with unanswered questions and thoughts of the story long after the ending. An interesting read which may leave the reader quite mystified.
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‘Go inside, Alexandre is expecting you…’
It is the height of summer in Paris when Grace, a young British writer, and her artist boyfriend move to the French capital. Grace is captivated by the glamour of the city and yearns to be part of chic Parisian society. Before she knows it, Grace is befriended by four enigmatic women who represent everything she longs to be. But Grace can’t recall where she met these women, when they entered her life, or how they seem to know so much about her.
The four women insist she seek out Alexandre Martel. He is a French tutor par excellence, and could not only teach her the language, but his influence could also open the door to the exclusive Parisian elite she so admires – although, the women warn her, Alexandre’s methods are not for the faint-hearted.
Her instincts warn her not to get involved, but Grace soon becomes embroiled in Alexandre’s world. He is a brilliant, unsettling teacher. But for his lessons there will be a price to pay…
The Four Women brings a cold shiver to a hot Paris summer in a dark, supernatural fairy tale about the choices we make, the lies we tell, and the inescapable force of destiny.