Courtney Maum’s debut novel, “I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You,” is a reverse love story. British artist Richard Haddon fell in love with his French wife, Anne-Laure while he was a student at RISD and she was a paralegal in Boston.
We were partners in crime when we met in America. We had accents. Tailored clothes. Anne wore nothing but stilettos for a year, and I took to wearing and American black-and-gold flag as a scarf. We drank heady red wine and threw Yorkshire pudding dinners on the weekends. We licked coke off menthol cigarettes . . . We spent a great deal of time apart, but, in our own way, remained inseparable.
Now, living in Paris, the married parents of young daughter Camille, they are a couple in crisis. Richard, who narrates the story, has cheated on his wife with Lisa, an American journalist. She has broken things off in order to move to London and marry.
And so I find myself in a kind of love lock: pining for the wrong person, grieving beside a woman whose body I can’t touch, being given a second chance I can’t find the clarity to take.
Ironically titled, “I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You” is about Richard’s search for clarity. The sale of a painting he had made when Anne-Laure was pregnant – and that triggered a series of commercially successful paintings that viewed scenes through keyholes --is the catalyst for his reassessment of his life and his art. He is ready to reclaim his art, his wife and accept that his affair with Lisa is irrevocably over.
As he sets about reclaiming his marriage, Anne-Laure discovers Richard's previously secret yet finished affair. As a result, Richard must learn not only how to fall in love with his wife for the second time, but how to convince her that he is still worthy of her love. Along the way, he returns to his performance art roots to produce a hit gallery installation decrying the conflict in Iraq.
His quest – for it is at heart an old-fashioned quest – begins with his bumbling and comic efforts to get his painting back. Repossession of this talisman, he thinks, is a certain first step in getting his wife back.
In the selling of that painting, I’d forgotten Anne-Laure, twice. Once in the arms of another woman, and once in my own mind. I would get that painting and bring it to her, and prove that I could do it: go back to first-love feelings, to comments without agenda, to youthfulness, to laughs. I could do it. I was doing it. In Anne’s absence, I was falling for her. Falling back.
Here is a wry, witty and engagingly contemporary look at the meaning of love and fidelity, regrets and forgiveness – and what it means for a marriage to mature. Flawed though Richard is, he is filled nonetheless with good intentions. He wants to complete his quest. After all, as Richard realizes, “You love people. They disappoint you. But sometimes, they don’t. They just keep loving you.”
“I Am Having So Much Fun Without You” is available on amazon.com and at your favorite New York bookstores.