This wonderful collection of 18 brand-new essays, released in July, is a must-read for anyone who has ever dreamed of coming to Paris; has been to Paris and had either a good or a bad time here; and/or anyone who enjoys both the vicarious pleasure of reading about good times spent in Paris, and the soul-connection of commiseration with others who have suffered through frustrating, disappointing, or downright miserable moments in the famous City of Light.
The authors are all best-selling women writers who have written books set in Paris, and the essays were all written specifically for this collection. Eleanor Brown decided to curate this anthology, she says, because after coming here to research her novel, The Light of Paris, she came away with the conclusion that “Paris, for all the wonders it contains, is just a city…with its pretty parts and its grimy parts, its rude citizens and its friendly ones, its nice museums and its tourist traps.” She continues, “[But] if it is just another city, why are we obsessed with it? Why do we love writing—and reading—stories about Paris?” [Click here to read our interview with Eleanor Brown.]
She chose 17 authors of novels set in Paris, and asked them to help her answer that question. “I wanted to know what they really, honestly thought about the City of Light…” she says, and adds, “Their clever and funny and dreamy and sad and thoughtful answers are collected here.”
Each of the essays is followed by a questionnaire created by Brown, in which the authors answer such questions as “Favorite (and least-favorite) Paris moment,” and offer suggestions about what they consider to be Paris “must-dos” and “can-skips,” and name their favorite books about Paris.
Through these addendums to each essay, those who love to read about Paris will find great suggestions for future reading. I, for example, cannot wait to read Therese Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald—and that’s just the first title to go on my to-read list.
All of the essays are wonderfully well-written, and full of insight, humor, and well-earned wisdom not only about the pleasures and challenges of being in Paris, but the pleasures and challenges of just plain living and learning from life (both the good and the bad moments) as well. There is much wisdom shared, often with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor that makes for a number of laugh- (or at least chuckle) out-loud moments.
The essays are wonderfully diverse in terms of the circumstances described, which include (among others) stories about being young in Paris; being in Paris in middle age with sullen adolescent children and reluctant husbands; doing research for novels set in Paris; and lessons learned and retained through a lifetime, from a long-ago experience of living with a French family.
I enjoyed reading all of these essays: my own personal favorites were “The Passion of Routine” (by Jennifer L. Scott); “A Good Idea?” (by Therese Anne Fowler); and “Paris Alone,” by Maggie Shipstead, but it was not at all easy choosing just three.
And, anyway, why take my word for it? I think you really should pick up a copy of this book, and decide for yourself.
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