Friday, July 13, 2012

Paris in Love by Eloisa James

Eloisa James is an author who I have enjoyed a number of times. Her historical romances are clever (sometimes too clever for me) and funny and I look forward to each knew one. When I first heard that this book was coming out, I was kind of surprised because despite the title this is very much not historical romance. James may be a successful author but she is also a university professor, wife and mother

For a woman who might seem to have it all, there were a couple of blows that made her and her family decide that it was time for a change. Her mother died from cancer and then James herself was diagnosed with the dreaded C word. After treatment, the decision was made. The family sold up and moved to Paris for a year. For me, that sounds like an impossible dream!

In some ways, this book is almost a reflection of our modern times. The various chapters start with an essay that is a few pages long, and then the rest of the individual chapters are made up of various small snippets of daily life in Paris, many of them starting out as Facebook and Twitter updates. It does mean that whilst there is a definite beginning and end to the novel, there isn't really a narrative that links. It is rather that the same people appear in the pages - James herself, her Italian husband Alessandro and her children, 15 year old Luca and 10 year old Anna, as well as the in-laws and a revolving circle of friends.

Whilst living in Paris might be one of my dreams, as it was for Eloisa and Alessandro, not everyone was thrilled. Luca and Anna had to leave behind their schools and friends and start afresh at an Italian language school in Paris. To say that there were ups and downs during the year is an understatement. There were difficulties with language, with school and with friends. It might also be a bit confronting for the kids now to realise that some of the things that they said and experienced are now filling the pages of this book! 

This book is primarily about the experience of giving yourself up to living in a new place, but it is also a picture of so much more. It is an inspection on family and marriage (not quite warts and all, but with some disagreements and affection clearly on show), on illness and death, food and fashion (especially lingerie), on love, on bad hair and on the difficulties of putting an overweight chihuahua on a diet. 

The writing is delicious in many ways. There are lots of snippets about sensational (and not so sensational) food, observations about the different pace of French life and family, all of which are filled with humour and just the right note of poignancy. 

James shares some of her favourite Paris experiences, the little out of the way museums that might not be known the world over like The Louvre, but are filled with fascinating treasures, the out of the way restaurants, the amazing little shops. One day, it would be nice to be able to experience some of these sights myself.

Once you get used to the style of the writing, the book flies by, and I most certainly found myself smiling happily to myself as I shared the family's journey, even on a long and crowded train trip home that lasted a lot longer than normal. While everyone around me was getting grumpy, I was happily ensconced in Eloisa James' Paris. 

Rating 4/5

After years of living vicariously for years through her romantic heroines, bestselling novelist Eloisa James takes a leap that most of us can only daydream about. She sells her house, leaves her job as a Shakespeare professor behind, and packs her husband and two protesting children off to the city of her dreams.

Grand plans are abandoned as she falls under the spell of daily life as a Parisienne -- exquisite food, long walks by the Seine, reading in bed, displays of effortless chic around every corner and being reminded of what really matters in a place where people seem to kiss all the time. 

An irresistable love letter to a city that will make you want to run away, PARIS IN LOVE is also a joyful testament to the pleasures of savouring life. ′I never did learn to live in the moment, but I did learn how to waste them. It was a glorious lesson.′

17 comments:

  1. I marked this book to read next year because I am for SURE participating in Paris in July!!

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    1. I have a couple of books that I read a while ago and I wrote the reviews and left them saved in anticipation of Paris in July!

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  2. I had the same reaction...I was initially thrown by the style, but it didn't take me long to get into it and I ended up loving the book. I especially liked reading about both the good and bad experiences of the family.

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    1. Yes, I liked the honesty as well. It wasn't quite warts and all but it did show that in a normal family and marriage there are times when it isn't all lovey dovey but it doesn't change the fundamental strength.

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  3. This seems to be popular choice for Paris in July this year. I'm on the library hold list, but slowly losing hope of getting it in time... may have to save it for next year.

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    1. JoAnn, I was a bit worried I wasn't going to get it in time either, but fortunately it all worked out!

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  4. I would enjoy reading this one, as it has always been a dream of mine to move to another country and start over for a short time. I would choose England, but I agree that there is much charm in Paris, and wouldn't rule it out for a year's stay! I can imagine that the children did have a hard time with it, but I bet it's something that they will remember for the rest of their lives, which is a gift. I also want to know how in the world do you put a chihuahua on a diet!?!! Excellent review today, Marg!

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    1. Zibilee, the short answer to your question is with great difficulty! I have done the living overseas thing, but I wouldn't say no to even just a couple of months in Paris!

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  5. Great review. I like how you've really provided us with a broad overview of the book. I hadn't read her before, or indeed heard of her before I started seeing this book everywhere. Having now read Paris in Love I'm not surprised that her historical romances are clever as James herself clearly is, Professor of Shakespeare and all, but you would never guess it from the awful covers that they put on her books. Maybe I will try one of them at some stage, but historical romances aren't really my thing.

    I reviewed Paris in Love this week too, I focused more on specific points, you can find my review here

    http://astrongbeliefinwicker.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/paris-in-love.html

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    1. Louise, thanks for stopping by! Her covers are very much traditional historical romance covers so if that isn't your thing I can see how they might be offputting.

      Off to visit your review!

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  6. Paris in July... I certainly hope that Bastille Day is more sunny and dry than I suspect it is. Yet, there's just something about the city that makes it lovable, no matter the state of the weather :)

    I think I will enjoy this book a lot, thanks for your review :)

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    1. It was cold and grey here for a lot of the day, but then again it is winter!

      When I was in Paris it was December and it was cold with snow! Still loved it.

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  7. I have this to read. I can't wait to dig in. Thank you for your wonderfully detailed review.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it when you read it.

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  8. Sounds like an honest but interesting story. I would love to visit Paris someday, but I admit it's a bit daunting with the language barrier and all. Friends of mine say it depends on where you are and such, but still, a bit nerve wracking. Life is certainly too short!
    Thanks Marg :)

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