Q & A with Anne Marsella by Lauren Elkin
Native Californian Anne Marsella‘s debut novel Remedy
(Portobello Books) is set in a Pariscape peopled by odd, intriguing,
and enthusiastic characters. The resulting novel is more than the sum
of its eccentricities: it is a joyous romp, and an endearing read.
At the center of this very funny and highly original work is a young lady called Remedy O’Riley de Valdez, originally of Florida, USA and lately of Paris, France. The chapters mirror the Calendar of Saints, and Remedy, a “devout, if unorthodox” Catholic, lets the saint-of-the-day’s hagiography infuse her esprit du jour.
Remedy spends her weekdays as an assistant at a fashion website, and her
weekends learning to belly dance; nights she entertains (acrobats and
cowboys, mostly) and dreams of meeting her “man o’ the moon,” “one with
some free time but not too much. Preferable one who dances the cha-cha
and who can recite Emily Dickinson’s poems on command.”
FT Magazine – Rose Jacobs
Some readers will be turned off by the conceit of this first novel, in which an American fashionista in Paris seeks help from a syndicate of Catholic saints in her search for true love. But this is less chick-lit than an insight into one strain of modem expat life. Remedy, the narrator, is fluent in French and appreciated at work, but she befriends outsiders – the Muslim office cleaners. her Egyptian dance teacher, a blind nun – more than she does the natives. An idiosyncratic, deliberate character, she lives at the intersection of an immigrant’s vivid Paris and her own internal world, she turns what could be a cloying tale into something much stranger – and more charming.
Chloe Rhodes, The Telegraph
Remedy by Anne Marsella
This is classic Marmite literature – you either love it or you hate it. The main character, Remedy, is so eccentric and her narrative so self-consciously quirky that, unless you’re hooked within the first five pages, you’ll never be.
The concept is familiar: a lonely romantic is on a quest to find the man of her dreams and has several unsuitable suitors before finding Prince Charming. But the originality of the writing makes the plot irrelevant. What’s especially appealing here is the access given to the inner voice of such an unusual heroine.
The traditions of Catholicism (along with the teachings of Islam and the joy of Arabian belly-dancing) are cleverly woven into the story; Remedy addresses her thoughts on love and life to a different Catholic saint each day and each chapter begins with a potted history of their lives. The result is a delightful sort of hagiographer’s Bridget Jones.
The Times – Kate Saunders
“The heroine is named Remedy so it is fair to assume that her company is supposed to be a tonic. An American fashion hack in Paris, she lives in the heart of the quartier cliché, surrounded by colourful characters. There’s a lot of whimsy – but Remedy is irresistible. When not working, she attends Mass with her friend, the blind nun, meditates on the lives of the saints and waits for love. Her romances are the funniest parts of a strangely pleasing novel.”
The First Post
” The eponymous heroine of REMEDY is a nice Catholic girl from Florida with an adventurous sexual appetite who works in Paris for A la Mode Online. Every lunchtime, while her colleagues hit the gym, she goes to Mass and entreats that day’s saint to send her an agreeable lover. When not lusting after A La Mode’s gay photographer Jean Claudi, or fighting off the attentions of otherwise inappropriate Frenchmen, she reads Balzac, makes much of her cat Jubilee and muses philosophically. Marsella’s writing is arch, literary… heroines who can do Henry James and Jean-Paul Gaultier are few and far between and should therefore be treasured.”
“This is less chick-lit than an insight into one strain of modern expat life: Remedy, the narrator, is fluent in French and appreciated at work, but she befriends outsiders – the Muslim office cleaners, her Egyptian dance teacher, a blind nun –more than she does the natives. An idiosyncratic, deliberate character, she lives at the intersection of an immigrant’s vivid Paris, and her own internal world…she turns what could be a cloying tale into something much stranger – and more charming.”
The Daily Telegraph
“The concept is familiar: a lonely romantic is on a quest to find the man of her dreams. But the originality of the writing makes the plot irrelevant. What’s especially appealing here is the access given to the inner voice of such an usual heroine. The traditions of Catholicism (along with the teachings of Islam and the joy of Arabian belly-dancing) are cleverly woven into the story; Remedy addresses her thoughts on love and life to a different Catholic saint each day and each chapter begins with a potted history of their lives. The result is a delightful sort of hagiographer’s Brigit Jones.”
Olivia Laing, The Guardian
There is something decidedly disturbing about an adult who calls her mother “Mumly”, particularly when she is dubbed “Princess” in return. But Mademoiselle Remedy O’Riley de Valdez – Catholic, fashionista and belly-dancer extraordinaire – is a very singular singleton, and though her speech patterns sometimes recall the babble of the nursery, the tenacity with which she searches for love suggests a more steely soul. Remedy’s aim in life is to find “her man-o-the-moon” (and if you find that painful, just wait until she calls Jesus the “Lamb-o-God”) on the boulevards of Paris, and to this end she has petitioned saints and ancestors alike for their celestial aid.
Though she tries to practise Adult Sex, an approach to dating advocated by the love-relations psychologist at Belle magazine (“In this day and age,” she tells herself sternly, “a woman cannot behave like the pubescent romanticist, a sitting duck stuffed with false notions of the love connection. No, she must take love as an assignment, fulfil the duties and dispense with it at term”), Remedy is an inveterate romantic. So far, so Bridget Jones, but what distinguishes Marsella’s heroine from the solipsistic sisterhood of chick lit is her absolute lack of neurosis, social anxiety or self-doubt.Read More
Alex Clarke, Red magazine
What’s the answer for a solitary young American in Paris? For Remedy, salvation doesn’t lie in her job at A La Mode Online, but at a local Catholic church, where she finds inspiration in the saints. It is with the help of these ancients that the ups and downs of working life, romantic traumas and an extremely odd set of neighbours become bearable. Anne Marsella’s debut novel is one of the most quirky to have hit the shelves for years – and certainly boasts one of the most unusual and entertaining heroines.