Book Review: Parisian Life by Edith de Belleville

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Book Review: Parisian Life by Edith de Belleville
Some people have the incomparable gift of being absolutely, completely, totally themselves. Edith de Belleville is one such person. Author, lawyer, licensed tour guide, single mom, and above all parisienne, her book Parisian Life: Adventures in the City of Light has recently been released. Parisian Life is a collection of stories about the author’s life as a tour guide in Paris, and the book is every bit as lively as the author herself. “I live my life through literature, art, and through the history of Paris,” she tells us early in the book. “Each stone, each street, each monument, each museum, and each café can tell you a different story.” Parisian Life by Edith de Belleville In this book she tells you those stories: many of the stories are from French history, others are her own personal stories. All are filtered through her fresh and unique perspective, and told with disarming honesty, candor, and a genuine passion for the city she loves. Her style is whimsical (for example, she recounts cheeky face-to-face “conversations” she has with the likes of Hemingway and Napoleon), but the historical information conveyed in the book is solid. Through her passion for Paris we learn interesting things about Danton, Stendhal, Marie Antoinette, George Sand, Coco Chanel. We learn about the famous 17th-century courtesan, Ninon, and about the poem Le Pont Mirabeau by Apollinaire; and about many other figures as well as events in French history. Coco Chanel at the Ritz Paris. Photo courtesy of the Ritz Paris Reading this book is like having the opportunity to take a private guided tour of Paris with the author as she takes you to well-known settings: the Café Select, the Hotel Ritz, the Louvre, yes; but also to “everyday” sites in Paris, for example a café in the Latin Quarter, where she meets a friend for a “quick lunch” one day. When her friend mentions that the café they are in is just an ordinary café and that the life she is living in Paris is an ordinary one, Edith protests that neither the café, nor her friend’s life in Paris is ordinary: “Look at the name! It’s Café Descartes, from the first modern philosopher, René Descartes, who lived in the 17th century. And look there.” I point to an old stone wall visible from where we are sitting…“This is the old wall of Philippe Auguste,” I say, “built in the 12th century to protect Paris from the English. Where else could you eat inexpensive delicious lunch in a place named for a famous 17th century philosopher while admiring a 12th century wall?…And I don’t even mention the fact that Hemingway lived 50 meters from where we are. So no, you are not living an ordinary life in Paris…You live an authentic life in Paris!” Louvre Pyramid in Paris © Pixabay at Pexels
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Lead photo credit : Edith de Belleville. Photo credit: Ted Belton

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Janet Hulstrand is a freelance writer, editor and teacher who divides her time between France and the U.S. She is the author of "Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You," and she writes frequently on France for a variety of publications, including her blog, Writing from the Heart, Reading for the Road. She teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” for the education abroad program of Queens College of the City University of New York; classes at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington D.C.; and Writing from the Heart workshop/retreats in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in the Champagne region (l’Aube).

Comments

  • Hazel Smith
    2022-06-14 10:57:43
    Hazel Smith
    vive Édith! I've just finished her book. Edith and her stories are très mignon!

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