Hannah and her dog Nellie live in the famous Portobello area of London. Nellie is a British Bull Dog with greedy tendencies which lead to funny unfortunate smelling side-effects. Nellie has a starring sub-role throughout the book.
Hannah writes articles for a Health and Wellbeing magazine, a dead-end job but unless she can find out what she’d really like to do in life, she’s stuck here, testing free samples and writing about them along with new recruit Ian. Their working relationship is fun and upbeat making a good contrast to more serious parts of the book.
This book is quite deep and complex, it’s about Hannah’s journey through life and how she learns to forgive, trust and let go of her past. We meet Victor an older Frenchman who introduces Hannah to the world of French films and the Lumière brothers. Through a series of time shifts we read the back stories of Hannah’s past, her childhood, boyfriends, her trips out with Victor and hear of the many French films they watch together. Her own fascination with films culminates in the Cinema Lumière with just one plush red seat for private viewings only and Victor’s dedication to film production.
Hannah narrates this story, so you get a good feel for her character, and of course Victor is full of amazing stories of Paris and the past. A few times the book wavers towards the story being a dream and I was glad to see that Hannah didn’t write a book about her life at the end. I had a personal issue with the gymnastics in the book, men use the parallel bars, women the a-symmetric and a mat is for landing on while routines are performed on the floor, that’s purely from my own years of training as a British gymnast. Other people from around the world will use different terminology.