Alicia Drake, the author of The Beautiful Fall, discusses her first novel I Love You Too Much during an evening talk with Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France
In 2006, Drake published The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris. The non-fiction account of two renowned Parisian designers, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld provides an important examination of the fashion industry and the culture of the time.
In 2018, Drake has re-emerged with I Love You Too Much, a coming-of-age novel told through the eyes of Paul, a thirteen-year-old boy living in the sixth arrondissement of Paris, France:
In the sixth arrondissement everything is perfect and everyone is lonely. This is the Paris of thirteen-year-old Paul. Shy and unloved, he quietly observes the lives of the self-involved grown-ups around him: his glamorous maman Séverine, her young musician lover Gabriel and his fitness-obsessed papa Philippe. Always overlooked, it’s only a matter of time before Paul sees something that he’s not supposed to see . . .
Seeking solace in his unlikely friendship with tear-away classmate Scarlett and the sweet confections from the elegant neighbourhood patisseries, Paul yearns for unconditional love. But what will he do if he can’t find it?
The Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company recently hosted Drake discuss her new novel. Here are some key takeaways that she touched on:
She wrote one of the drafts in French.
Why? Because there were some things that didn’t translate from French to English in a literal and/or an emotional sense. Depending on the context, there are implied connotations in certain French phrases that lose their substance when translated into English.
Also, the translations may not jive culturally—it’s unthinkable that an English mother would tell their child to “shut up” (tais toi).
It’s a coming-of-age story for children…and parents.
In the novel, Drake does focus on how a child navigates the world’s many complexities, but she also takes pride in explaining that I Love You Too Much is also a novel for parents approaching middle-age. Drake wanted to illustrate the ways in which adults try to preserve or rediscover their youth.
Drake did not influence the protagonist’s perspective—she listened to him and they experienced his journey together.
One of the most interesting parts of the discussion was when the moderator asked how Drake felt when she “inflicted wounds” on Paul. Drake explained that it wasn’t about her inflicting wounds on Paul, it was the fact that Paul was sharing his story with her.
The book title was a core concept that Drake described as “an obsession.”
Drake explained that writing the novel was a process that took some time to develop—years, to be exact. One of the concepts Drake wanted to explore was the French phrase je t’aime trop. The English translation? I love you too much.
What does it mean to be loved too much? What does it mean to not be loved enough?
I Love You Too Much has allowed Drake to delve deep into the subject by discovering what it truly means to love and be loved in the modern world.
I Love You Too Much is available online and bookstores everywhere.
Shakespeare and Company is an English-language bookshop in the heart of Paris, on the banks of the Seine, opposite Notre-Dame. Since opening in 1951, it’s been a meeting place for anglophone writers and readers, becoming a Left Bank literary institution.
Bonus: This is my very short and very old “review” of The Beautiful Fall.