Winter in the City of Light- I found this when I googled “ retired Canadian teacher memoirs”.....and it was just what I needed, not only does Sue Harper tackle the need for purpose and the other pitfalls and challenges of retirement, she also references a bunch of books, which I have since ordered. This was perfect. What I especially loved was the opening chapter, when she situated herself as Canadian ( Toronto to Kelowna), with her partner ( LGBTQ) and they were going to hear the Wyrd Sisters ( Kim Baryluk) one night in BC. For this Manitoba teacher, planning early retirement this coming year, and really wanting to hear from someone as close to my situation as possible, this was exactly what I needed to read. I really appreciated the other referenced reads, which I have since bought. Top that off with the extended time in Paris ( twice) and the summer MFA in Halifax, which for me are really personal touchstones, this was a perfect read and helped me formulate what I have already somewhat envisioned my retirement looking like, and what it could also be.
And Sue, I would love to read your travelogue at some point. Thankyou for being real, vulnerable and inspiring. People are asking me “ what are you going to do in retirement?”, and I will now respond, “ I’m going to strive to be happy and do things that feed my soul.”
Winter in the City of Light by Sue Harper
Written by French Book Worm in Book Reviews And Interviews
After years having a successful career in Canada, retirement ought to have been something the author, Sue Harper should have looked forward to. However, work-life has structure and purpose; what would life be like without it? Sue’s partner Bonnie, an artist who retired 6 month earlier, was happily enjoying the opportunities this stage in her life had to offer. But Sue was to find that her transfer was not to be as easy. She admits to being a driven, obsessive and neurotic personality with a successful career in teaching and writing. However, having watched her parents’ non-retirement, now that it was her turn, she was determined to make the most of her chances and of the years ahead.
Thus begins this story.
Winter in the city of light review
A chronicle which is not only a celebration of Paris, its people, architecture and history, it is also a testament to the strength of resolve of the author as she takes readers along on her personal journey of self-discovery. Whilst looking back over her career she also includes snippets of priceless information gathered en route about the way we cope with the time that retirement offers, the freedom it gives us, and the opportunities it opens up.
Her own retirement? Well, partner Bonnie was invited onto an art course in Paris. The pair embraced the opportunity and it with great excitement moved into an apartment in the Montmartre district in the heart of the city. Bonnie settled happily into her course and Sue, well she struggled. She tried valiantly to face the challenges that living in an enormous unknown city bring, surrounded by people speaking a different language and having to learn a new way of living.
She discovered that a famous singer named Dalida lived in the next building on the Rue d’Orchampt. She found herself listening to guides from around the world explaining Dalida’s life and death to tourists below her window. And in this legendary neighbourhood, the author found herself fascinated by what she discovered about Dalida. Inspired, she began to explore the city more intently, and from her adventures, the reader is treated to a truly amazing insight into the wonders of this beautiful city and especially the Louvre. With her self-confidence growing she enjoyed extensive explorations of its wonderful exhibits, and through this she gained independence, and as a result began discovering herself.
Through this self-discovery came the realisation that although she had said she wanted to write in her retirement, and indeed she had during her career written textbooks, actually she wanted to write purely for pleasure, to enjoy the creativity of writing for writing’s sake.
And so on their return to Canada she enrolled in a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Non-fiction in Nova Scotia, declaring that she wanted to write a literary travel book about Paris. The couple lived on campus, and on the last day of the course Bonnie found that she had been accepted on two more art courses. They flew back to Paris the very next day, settled into an apartment and Sue began to write…
What a story it is! I believe it will not only appeal to those who already love, or want to discover the magic of Paris, Montmartre, and the mysteries of the Louvre, it is also an incredibly candid account of a journey of discovery. Highly Recommended!
Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Kobo and more…