My Sweet Guillotine sees Jayne Tuttle return to Paris a year after the horrific freak accident that almost killed her. Written in the same descriptive and witty style as her first book Paris or Die, Tuttle has the audience in her grips, wanting to know every next detail. Clichéd as it may sound, this is a real page-turner, so much so that you will find yourself having devoured the book as you may a French croissant.
My Sweet Guillotine is the follow up to Paris or Die released in 2019, and is the second book in what will be Jayne Tuttle’s Paris trilogy.
In My Sweet Guillotine, Tuttle explores her connection with Paris, a city she loved so much but one that almost killed her in an accident that most certainly wouldn’t happen in Australia. Our building regulations are quite a lot more stringent than those in France. How can you trust a city again after such an experience? Tuttle bravely speaks of her experience of PTSD, even finding humour in her sudden exaggerated awareness of the dangers of the City of Lights. Those plants that adorn balconies so prettily aren’t actually a potential hazard to pedestrians below, are they? Tuttle has a way of describing things that make them extremely comical. On the subject of balcony plants, “A long plastic tub of geraniums -the slut of the window box, Kiki would say ” Her descriptions of people are evocative, and of places transportive.
Jayne bravely reveals her own reckoning, finding herself asking pertinent questions about the accident. Was she being reckless leaning over the balcony? Was she wanting to die? Was this not so much an accident but something she had brought upon herself? Tuttle bravely weighs up whether to take on gut-wrenching, energy sapping, very personal, litigation in the hopes of preventing such accidents happening again.
My Sweet Guillotine sees Jayne forced to move from the front of stage role to that of director in some frustrating moments in Portugal. To no longer be able to do the thing that you love so much, and to have others usurping you and doing it so poorly, is infinitely soul-destroying. Despite these challenges, Jayne rises above as she navigates her now changed life. She finds new ways of expressing her creativity, including in the writing of these Paris memoirs.
We find it perfectly understandable that Jayne finds it physically impossible to return to the scene of the accident and wants to wipe it off the Paris map. Just as you want to avoid bumping into an ex, you don’t want reminders of bad experiences, especially near death ones, propelled upon you. Of course, while there are many challenges, not all is bad. Jayne has the mysterious Melbourne muso, Mr M. with her in Paris to keep her on her toes and to help her through her battles. And Jayne reunites with friends from her previous years in Paris, with whom she studied at the prestigious and gruelling École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. We found ourselves celebrating and commiserating with Jayne throughout the book. Worrying for her, and being proud of her throughout her challenges and triumphs.
Something we really love about Jayne’s recounting of her experiences in Paris in both Paris or Die and My Sweet Guillotine is the descriptions of places and routes she would take to get there. I am tempted to go revisit the book and make maps of Jayne Tuttle’s Paris, including the bistrots and bars of note. Perhaps a mini Paris travel book could be a future project – after all, it is only having lived in a city that you truly experience and know it.
It’s also really refreshing to see the real Paris in Jayne’s memoirs – not the postcard Paris but the real Paris with its frustrations. Just as in the first book Paris or Die, Jayne recounts the story of being given the worse baguette even though she was always most polite at the boulangerie, in My Sweet Guillotine there is the café where despite ordering the same as her friend and also stipulating no foam, her friends’ coffee is foamless and hers has a head of foam. The endless frustrations of being a foreigner in Paris! And the contradictions about the French themselves, as Tuttle says “[e]verything you say about the French is always true in its exact opposite ” Yet, just as Paris can be a cruel mistress, we can’t help ourselves falling in love with her, just as Jayne did.
My Sweet Guillotine is a wonderful read, especially for the Francophile who will get their dose of Paris. We can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy, which we’re told is expected to be released in 2024 – that’s a long wait!
Matilda Marseillaise received a review copy of My Sweet Guillotine for the purposes of this review and upcoming interview.
KEY INFO FOR MY SWEET GUILLOTINE
TITLE: My Sweet Guillotine
AUTHOR: Jayne Tuttle
DIMENSIONS: 23cm x 15cm
CATEGORY: Biography and Memoir
PUBLISHER: Hardie Grant Books
PUBLISHED: 7 September 2022
WEBSITE: You can find out more about Jayne Tuttle and her books at her webpage: http://www.jaynetuttle.com/
What’s your favourite book set in Paris? Have you read Jayne Tuttle’s other book Paris or Die?
We recently interviewed Jayne Tuttle and will be publishing that interview in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you may like to read our interview with another Australian author, Pip Drysdale, who talks to us about her book The Paris Affair.