Book Review: Let Them Eat Pancakes by Craig Carlson

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Book Review: Let Them Eat Pancakes by Craig Carlson
First of all, what a wonderful story…or rather, what a wonderful collection of stories! Second. What a wonderful writer! Last. (But certainly not least.) What a wonderful human being! Craig Carlson, that is—the author of Let Them Eat Pancakes: One Man’s Personal Revolution in the City of Light. But let’s get back to the book: Let Them Eat Pancakes is Carlson’s second book, in which he continues to tell the story of his life in Paris that he began telling in Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France, which BP reviewed here. Carlson is the founder and owner of the popular Breakfast in America diners in Paris (there’s one on the Right Bank, one on the Left). And while the subtitle of the first book alludes to living a “dream” life, one of the great charms of Carlson’s storytelling is the sense of humor that characterizes these books as he describes just how hard it has been at times to realize that dream, and continue to keep it alive.     View this post on Instagram   Follow @pancakesinparis to keep up to date with Breakfast in America’s owner and founder Craig Carlson! The end of the summer will see the launch of his memoir, “Pancakes in Paris” which tells the story of how Craig dreamt up what became the most popular American diner in Paris!! A post shared by Breakfast In America 1 (@breakfast_in_america_1) on Apr 2, 2016 at 10:56am PDT Unfortunately, I have not yet read Pancakes in Paris, so I’m not able to compare the two. But I can tell you that after having read Let Them Eat Pancakes I’m hungry for more. (Sorry, just couldn’t resist…) What I can tell you is that Let Them Eat Pancakes is an absolute delight. And while the genre is memoir, and the main focus of the memoir is on Carlson’s life in Paris, there are many unexpected detours along the way, that include peeks back at his life in the U.S. And those peeks gave me a deep appreciation for the considerable courage and imagination that led the author from a decidedly unprivileged childhood to the life he is leading today.  The nature of his difficult childhood comes out only gently, and gradually. What one notices first is his ability to bring characters vividly to life. For example, early in the book we get to meet his two immigrant grandmothers, one Polish, one Finnish. And we are instantly drawn into the story of not just Carlson’s life in Paris, but the life that led him there as well, starting out in a Connecticut town somewhat prophetically (as it turns out) named Frenchtown. In just a few words we get a very clear sense of what one of his grandmothers was like: As for my Polish grandmother on my mom’s side, sadly her immigrant story was buried with her. Unlike my Finnish grandmother, my grandma Mary did not want to talk about her childhood in Warsaw… “Tell me about Poland, Gram?” I’d ask her. “Bullshit Poland!” she’d say.

Lead photo credit : Photo © Jennifer Pallian, 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).


  • Anne-Marie Simons
    2020-07-17 08:19:36
    Anne-Marie Simons
    Missing in this story: the addresses of these diners in Paris. Anne-Marie Simons author of Taking Root in Provence


  • Denise Russo
    2020-07-17 04:36:44
    Denise Russo
    Please tell me, Is the restaurant on Rue de Sfax in Paris? There was an American Breakfast restaurant years ago when I lived on Rue de Sfax. Thank You