Coffee, Cigarettes and Crisis - Jana Misho (2014)

If you are a Francophile and love books that are set in France, you will enjoy this novel and its zany heroine. The book centres around a woman facing a quarter-life crisis who has no idea which direction her life is going to take. Add the recurring motifs of the city of Paris, an ocean of coffee and mountain of cigarettes, and you get a book that has a jumble of moments, some distressing, many wistful and plenty that are reflective too. There are very few characters in the book to keep track of, so if you've familiarised yourself with Max, Edith, Cesar and Hugo, you've almost covered the entire spectrum of people she plans to bring on to the stage of her story. The novel begins with some high drama. The young heroine loses her job and seems poised to tumble into a downward spiral of despondency. To our surprise, we find that she is made of sterner stuff. Soon, this enterprising girl manages to paint a series of paintings that she exhibits in a gallery and she also writes a novel which could launch her as the voice of the year. But none of this is as important to our lovely protagonist as finding true love. Will the man of her dreams walk into her life? Or was he always there and she just had to recognise him? The author draws you gently into this dilemma and holds you in her spell long enough to enjoy the journey. This is a refreshing, young read, but is perhaps far more enjoyable for the descriptions of Paris, a city that the author seems intimately familiar with, than for the story itself. (AC )

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