Good Books about Paris for a Wintry (Covid) Hibernation

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Good Books about Paris for a Wintry (Covid) Hibernation
Well, we’re not confined again, exactly. But many of us are choosing (wisely, or because we have to) to stay home a bit more than we usually do while the latest version of Covid makes its rounds. So, what to do with all those extra hours spent inside over the next few weeks? Seems like an excellent time to read some big, fat books about Paris, doesn’t it? Here is my short list of recommended hefty-but-fascinating reads. (There’s a longer list of some of my favorite books, both long and short, about Paris here.) Find them at your favorite local independent bookstore, like the Red Wheelbarrow in Paris. Fiction All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr) The Pulitzer Prize committee called this book “an imaginative and intricate novel inspired by the horrors of World War II and written in short, elegant chapters that explore human nature and the contradictory power of technology.” I agree, but I would add it is about so much more. It is about human strength and weakness; the beauty of music and the earth; the power of storytelling; and the ability of love to if not conquer all, at least provide some solace in a world too often gone mad. “Transformative” is a word often used to describe the experience of reading this book. The prose is surpassingly beautiful, and the insights into human life are profound. This is a book that bears rereading, so if you’ve already read it, you might want to read it again. The Parisian The Parisian (Isabella Hammad) This novel is the story of a young man, a Palestinian, who is sent by his father to study medicine in France at the beginning of the First World War. He spends a few years in France, years that are for him liberating and transformative; then he returns to Palestine. But the impact of his time in France never leaves him. This is one of only two books I’ve ever read that made me want to begin reading again immediately as soon as I reached the end of the book: it’s that good, that rich, that worth rereading. I also learned a lot about the 20th century history of Palestine and Syria that I wanted to know through reading this book. (Many of us really need to know more about this history.) Three Hours in Paris (Cara Black) This is a great choice for someone who is the mood for a thriller set in World War II; or a novel featuring a strong, independent, and very capable woman: or both. The story is built upon the historical fact that Adolf Hitler came to Paris only once, and when he did, he only stayed for three hours. Black was so intrigued by this odd fact that she built her story of an American sharpshooting woman who is sent by British intelligence to attempt to assassinate him. The writing is sharp, the plot spellbinding, and the characters are rich and full. Black has surpassed herself in this, her most recent novel.
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Lead photo credit : Woman reading by window © Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash

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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).