Diane Johnson is hungry. At 8 in the morning, she is preparing to read several French newspapers as well as the International Herald Tribune in her lofty 17th-century apartment, which is less than a block from the Seine on Paris's Left Bank. She makes coffee and, instead of a croissant, reheats pasta al pesto on her tomato-red La Cornue stove.
It's a short pause in a busy life. Not only has Johnson just finished her third novel in a trilogy, L'Affaire (the follow-up to Le Divorce and Le Mariage), she is also awaiting the release of the movie version of Le Divorce. Set in Paris, this Merchant Ivory film stars Kate Hudson, Glenn Close, Naomi Watts, Stockard Channing, Sam Waterston, Matthew Modine and France's Leslie Caron and Thierry Lhermitte, among others.
Johnson and her husband, John F. Murray, a doctor, know Paris almost as well as any two Americans could: They have lived there on and off for 20 years. The novelist's intimate observations of her French friends and her own participation in Parisian life (including her daughter's marriage into a French family) inform the Le Divorce trilogy. These books carefully examine French ambiguities—romantic, culinary and quotidian—as they are revealed in the manners, habits and idiosyncrasies of a privileged social set.