Calling all lovers of fine wine and extra-fine books: the publication of Ann Mah's book is less than a week away! On sale June 19th, The Lost Vintage is an enthralling story of one woman whose trip to Burgundy unearths a trove of shocking family secrets. Described as Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale, The Lost Vintage also received a rave review from Booklist, who said, "Mah’s story resonates on many levels, and her engaging story will appeal to readers who enjoy the family sagas of Kate Morton and Kristin Hannah." Today, we are thrilled to welcome Ann for a guest post!
I’ve loved libraries ever since I was a kid, when I spent most school vacations at our local branch. But I’d never have guessed that a library would become my second home. Here’s what happened.
In 2010 my husband and I moved to Paris. As lifelong Francophiles, his diplomatic assignment to France felt like a dream come true. But we had barely unpacked our bags, when he got called away to Baghdad for a year, no spouses allowed. The good news was that I could stay in Paris. The challenge would be creating a life by myself.
In the beginning, I struggled a little. As much as I loved living in Paris, I found Parisians as formal as their reputation and even though I spoke French, it wasn’t enough to loosen tight-knit social circles that had existed since pre-school (or, in some cases, the womb).
One evening, out for a walk, something caught my eye: a sign for the American Library in Paris. Back home, I did some research and discovered that this was the largest English-language lending library in Europe, founded in 1920. A modest membership fee offered access to the collection, as well as cultural events. The next day I returned and signed up.
At first I was just a member. I browsed the stacks, or whiled away rainy Saturdays in the reading room. But slowly I made friends with the circulation manager, who shared my interest in new cookbooks. And then the programs manager, who invited me to give a talk on my new novel. I started meeting other members: fellow former New Yorkers, fellow struggling writers, fellow book-lovers. Before I knew it, I was volunteering at author readings, arranging folding chairs into rows, pouring wine, distributing snacks. A few months later, the programs manager left for a new job and the library director offered me the position. I jumped at the opportunity.
As a writer, I had sometimes struggled with too much solitude. But now, my part-time job at the American Library in Paris gave me a comforting exoskeleton of routine. Commuting to work by métro, I felt like I was truly part of the city, an honest wage-earner, instead of a temporary resident, or dilettante tourist. I loved discovering a new neighborhood, one quieter and more residential than my own. And I enjoyed spending time with my colleagues – who were mostly American expats – and never tired of their quirky tales of culture shock and assimilation in France. In this quiet oasis near the Eiffel tower, I found a warm and caring community.
These days, I live in Paris part-time, but the American Library in Paris is still very much a part of my life. When my husband and I decided to look for an apartment to buy in Paris – a tiny shoebox, but our shoebox – we found one a block from the library. Once upon a time, I might have dismissed the neighborhood as stuffy – but now I knew better. After all my time at the library, it felt like home.
Whenever I go back to Paris, one of my first stops is always the American Library. I go to see to my friends, of course. But I also go to browse the stacks, curl up with a pile of books in the reading room, and while away a rainy afternoon. I go to remind myself that I am home again.
Thanks, Ann! The Lost Vintage goes on sale June 19th, so be sure to check it out!