Pictures from a Darkroom Floor gives readers a glimpse into the life of a young Canadian woman discovering herself in 1960s France, a time when you could still run into Picasso at a bullfight, Irving Penn at French Vogue or buy a house for $100 in a forgotten hamlet. Men's and women's roles were in flux. Through an impossible relationship Cook gradually learned to rebel against the constricted expectations for women. Undaunted she dealt with the conflicts in her life as well as day-to-day challenges such as babies, divorce courts and the application of false eyelashes.
In 1962, pregnant and unmarried, she made plans to have the baby on her own:
Somehow in Paris, where women were the strong sex, though they pretended otherwise, where most people were non-believers, though they pretended otherwise, somehow in Paris my situation made me fearless, she writes. I was doing what I had to do. I didn't care what my parents thought, and I assumed that in Paris no one would think ill of me. I believed that as a foreigner, I was beyond the bounds of societal strictures. Everything was possible.
It's 1960's France, a time when you could see Picasso at a bullfight or buy the Paris atelier where Gertrude and Alice entertained Ernest Hemingway. You could be photographed by Irving Penn for French Vogue or be stocking up on food during the Cuban missile crisis.
Heather Maggs is twenty-three when she sets sail for Europe in June, 1959, with a portfolio of newspaper cuttings, a Hermes Baby type-writer, a 35mm camera and the address of an old boyfriend. She's beginning the adventure of a lifetime. She works in London, Paris and Barcelona, she learns French, writes, models, designs clothes, and becomes a mother, all while dealing with a tempestuous relationship. But in the end it is a forsaken corner of Southwest France and a rambling old house that permanently changes her life.