In Belfast, “I interviewed masked gunmen I would later meet without their masks, in suits and ties, at the Council of Foreign Relations,” she writes in “Paris: A Love Story.” Observing a jarring development and then recounting it in detached, matter-of-fact prose is the journalist’s stock in trade, and that habit is what Marton relies on in this memoir as she grapples with an unexpected new stage of life: widowhood.
And so we see her in those dazed weeks before and after Holbrooke’s sudden death, at 69, on Dec. 13, 2010. She certainly understands what is expected of her: “As the wife of such a public man, my grief could not stay private,” she writes.
As a Washington insider, she carefully records her encounters with very important people. She slips out of Mass with Samantha Power to take a call of concern from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which is followed almost immediately by a call from Pakistani President Asif Zardari. The morning after her husband dies, she is packing up their Georgetown house, and President Bill Clinton stops by to reminisce for an hour.
She finds herself backstage at the Kennedy Center, waiting to speak at Holbrooke’s memorial service, leaning against President Obama for support. Even at such a wrenching moment, she is noticing “a tall blond woman, alone and hunched inside her black coat . . . Diane Sawyer — Richard’s partner for many years before I came into his life. She had written me the briefest and most generous note.”
After she has met her obligations, off Marton goes to Paris, a city she has returned to for the most intensely emotional episodes of her life.
As a young woman, she and Jennings had their trysts there in a hotel where the concierge named her “Mademoiselle Incognito.” As a mother of two, recently separated after a tempestuous 15 years with Jennings, she fled from New York to her sister’s Paris apartment for the Christmas holidays. When Jennings showed up to plead for their marriage, she moved to a hotel, only to get a phone call from Holbrooke, then the ambassador to Germany, offering to sweep her off to a tour of the countryside.
And off her feet: After five days, he told her he had been waiting for her for years, anticipating her separation, because “he said he had known for years I was just right for him, intellectually and emotionally, and in other ways, too.” Seventeen years after that dinner, Marton writes: “Now who am I? Why did no one tell me that we have love on loan? People should be told this.”