‘It is difficult to express the peculiar mixture of elation and pride one felt coming upon the Australian Bookshop in Paris. There it was, utterly national, precious, devoted to writers mostly unknown in Europe, yet it sat conspicuously on the Left Bank, a short walk across from the Louvre, as a feisty affirmation of Australian literary assertion and incursion.’ – GAIL JONES
At a time in her life when friends were retiring and spending time with their grandchildren, a night out in Paris while she visited her musician son inspired Elaine Lewis to dream of a daring venture in this most enchanting of cities. Her vision was more than just fanciful. After doing the necessary research and groundwork, Elaine packed her bags and left Australia to open, on the Left Bank, the first Australian bookshop in central Paris.
Full of incredible energy and enthusiasm, and with the help of locals and visiting Australians, she created her shop in the heart of the St-Germain-des-Prés literary quarter. Situated just around the corner from Notre Dame, her cosy literary haven quickly became an important cultural centre and a home away from home for Australian writers and artists in Paris. Writers who were visitors at the bookshop included David Malouf, Helen Garner, Nikki Gemmell and Nick Earls. Elaine hosted events, book readings and encouraged an exchange of ideas and a love of literature, as well as midnight swims in the Seine!
But when some bumbling and nasty French bureaucrats threatened to close down the shop, Elaine and her many staunch supporters were faced with a battle against the establishment that quickly became stranger than fiction …
Left Bank Waltz is the spirited story of an Australian woman’s courageous decision to follow a dream – and in the process, bring great pleasure and a sense of pride to many others.