Julie Nisargand’s prose has a familiar appeal, as though we’re good friends, sitting down for a chat. She may say things she wouldn’t tell anyone else; of course, I want to know all the details. However, such familiarity is more than superficial. Nisargand’s protagonist evolves with the story of An Exaltation of Larks as she confronts her own illusions and diversions, the distractions of her own creation. This trip is a journey, a tough one that requires real courage.
Christine Louis finally arrives in Paris, a much-anticipated trip though one taken at the expense of her waitressing job back in the States. Unfortunately, by the time she reaches her pension to pay for her reservation, Christine realizes she has been robbed of her money, passport and identification. Thankfully, she survives the night thanks to the kindness of strangers. The following day is consumed by a visit to the police to file a report, the U.S. Embassy and American Express.
The aftershocks she will suffer from the robbery are far too subtle to surface as Christine starts over, ready to explore the city of her dreams in the three weeks she has allotted herself. Sharing a room in the pension with another woman, a stranger, Christine contacts the French friends she met in Los Angeles, makes the acquaintance of a handsome neighbor (who lent her money in her distress), and sets out to see what Paris has to offer.
Christine speaks no French but manages quite well. Sexually drawn to her neighbor, Klive, Christine does a strange mating dance with him, the physical attraction clouding her judgment. Klive leaves Paris for a week and Christine agrees to a date with a new acquaintance. Although she prides herself on her directness, Christine resents the undesirable men who enter her life, often setting up the very situations she finds so uncomfortable.
This short novel is very entertaining and well-written, complex on many levels, an emotional travelogue of a young woman exploring the romantic streets of Paris. Nevertheless, she proves the adage that no matter where we go, we take ourselves along. Christine uses her Parisian respite to review her relationships to men, how she uses them as a distraction from her important goals. Responsibly, Christine reflects, “It is my own, hard-won, thoughtfully constructed life.” It is, indeed, and she handles it quite well.