On the cusp of his thirtieth birthday, gay teacher Justin lives in Paris and struggles with Post Traumatic Stress. Although he navigates his life with wit and style, he is a broken young man, shattered by the death of two friends in the Bataclan massacre and the accidental (and gruesome) death of his mother at Justin and his husband Théophile’s country house. Much of the novel centers around the arrival in Paris of the family of Justin’s best friend Hamish. However, here too everything seems to be unraveling. Hamish’s mother, the famed English sculptor India Chatterton, married to the equally famed American horror writer Balfour Bedminister, is dying of a brain tumour.
In the midst of the chaos of mental and physical illness, Justin breaks free of the past and begins to perceive the possibility a different, better life. The novel is humorous, while dealing with serious subjects. One is meant to laugh, because life’s essential truths (as Justin discovers) are occasionally hilarious and horrifying at the same time. The title of the novel is taken from Justin’s pretense of angelic protection: “I configured my protective angels, as suggested to me by my best friend’s sister Marigold…. I had tried rousing Gloria Swanson and Oscar Wilde, and once or twice Josephine Baker ...” The novel ends at India’s funeral, with a more centered Justin, having broken with Hamish and his family, contemplating an adult life and perhaps a soothing of his traumatized mind, even if he is, “Keeping Gloria Swanson.”
Paperback: 220 pages
Publishing date: May 1, 2019
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
Price: $19.60 (paperback) $7.99 (e-book)
Mark Albro has studied and worked in Paris, where he currently lives. He is a scholar of French fiction and has written for European scholarly publications. The son of a psychologist, Mark imagined he had better coping skills than most for the tragedy of the Bataclân terrorist attack on the night of November 13, 2015. He did not. His and his friends’ struggles to come to grips with that event now demarcate his life. Living on the street where Rimbaud came of age and dining where Hemingway’s Jake Barnes rode away from Montparnasse with Lady Brett Ashley, Mark agrees (and Keeping Gloria Swanson proves) that Paris is still a movable feast.