I’m thrilled to announce the release of my novel, Loving Le Corbusier.
The novel is a fictionalized account of the life of Yvonne Gallis, the woman from Monaco who became the wife of the architect Le Corbusier. It’s a love story but an unusual one, and peopled by many of the greatest creative minds of the twentieth century, people like Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger. While it’s the story of an ordinary woman, naturally it gives an insight into the life of the dynamic man she fell in love with – Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, who called himself Le Corbusier.
It was impossible not to tell the story of France, too, in the tumultuous years after the devastating Great War, as Paris blossomed in the Art Deco years and accepted the social changes of the 1930s, which was then all thrown into chaos by the sudden shock of the German Occupation in 1940.
Researching the novel meant reading almost everything I could lay my hands on about the work of the architect, as well as his personal correspondence (which meant I really had to brush up my French). I also talked to many Le Corbusier specialists, and visited his buildings across France. But my focus was always on Yvonne. She intrigued me. Most books on Le Corbusier (and there are many) mention her fleetingly – a model from Monaco, that kind of thing – but occasionally there were clues to another person, the one who drank too much, who flared easily. That was what pricked my interest. She intrigued me. Such a happy soul – at first, anyway. I wondered who she was and what sort of woman had ended up living with a man who was famously tricky and controlling and who seemed to want to cover the world in concrete tower blocks. It meant that I had to travel not only to their home in Paris, which is open to the public and run by the Fondation Le Corbusier, but also to the other places that Yvonne stayed, places like Vézelay in the Burgundy region, or the holiday cabin they had on the French Riviera, and even the bleak little hamlet in the Pyrenees where they sat out several months of the Second World War. You won’t be surprised to learn that this was no hardship. Every step was a joy, but to travel around my favourite country and look at it through the eyes of history, and the eyes of Yvonne specifically was pure magic.
I remember a moment in Paris. I’d enjoyed lunch in the simple restaurant on Rue Saint-Benoît on the Left Bank where Yvonne and her husband had often eaten (and where I imagined they had their first dinner together). The place seemed unchanged since the early decades of the 20th century.
I had then sauntered down Rue Jacob, past number 20 where they had lived for the first years of their relationship during the 1920s and early 1930s, and then I sat for a while in the leafy green shade of the Vert-Galant, the park at the prow of the Ȋle de la Cité. My thoughts were tumbling all over the place, as I realised what a task I had in front of me. I wanted to make sure that I got it right. I didn’t want to fall into the trap of writing a rose-tinted version of life in Paris in the first decades of the twentieth century but to find out what it was actually like. And I wanted to understand the hardship and joy of living with a man who was determined to change the world. I knew I had so much research to do, not only about Yvonne but also about normal French life through those decades. It seemed like a momentous task.
And that’s when I turned and noticed the name of the barge tied up at the quay behind me: Yvonne. Instantly, I knew it would be all right. I know it was magical thinking but it felt as though I had Yvonne’s blessing, or at least her encouragement.
And that’s why, when I had finished the novel and had it edited and prepared for release, I made sure to thank Yvonne. Because for the past three years she has opened my eyes to France in a way I had never experienced before.
I hope you enjoy it. Loving Le Corbusier is available from Amazon Kindle, iBooks and all the other usual ebook retailers. I’d love to hear what you think. A review on whichever site you bought it through would also make a huge difference to its promotion.
Now excuse me while I go and run around the room one more time…