Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Paris in July: Chasing the Stars by Virginie Grimaldi (Il est grand temps de rallumer les étoiles)

Over the last few years I have had an infrequent feature which I call Bestsellers Around the World where I have a look at the bestsellers lists of other countries. One country I have done several times now is France, and there are some names that are appearing on the lists each time. One of those authors is Virginie Grimaldi, so I decided to read one of her books.

Anna is struggling to make ends meet. Her boss has just advised her that he is ending her employment and she has debt collectors chasing her. She's been the sole breadwinner ever since she split up with her ex husband. Her older daughter Chloe has never forgiven her for the break up of the family and is acting out, wanting to drop out of school and engaging in sexual activities with young men who treat her badly.  Anna's youngest daughter Lily is being bullied at school and wants absolutely nothing to do with her absent father. 

With the debt collectors closing in the least sensible thing for Anna to do is to borrow her parents camper van, accept some money from her grandmother and go on a roadtrip through Scandinavia in search of the Northern Lights. Whilst it isn't sensible, it is what Anna believes she and her girls need if they have any chance of repairing their little family. The girls aren't necessarily pleased and there will also be many arguments and challenges along the way.

On their travels, they meet up with a group of other travellers from a young couple just starting our, two elderly men who are completing the journey they thought they would be doing with their late wives, a wealthy family who are going back to basics, and their leader, a man who is taking his autistic son on an adventure. 

We see the emotional dynamics between all three of our characters, as they all deal with their own issues and with each other. I loved that we got to hear the voices of Chloe and Lily. Chloe is keeping a blog and Lily writes in her diary which she has named Marcel.

I often think about what authors from other countries are writing about. For example, there is a lot of WWII historical fiction that is set in France but written by English or American authors. So are French historical fiction authors writing about France or about somewhere else completely!

I was interested to see how different this kind of book would be. After all, over the last few years I have read many books where someone heads somewhere for a new start. So many times, it is an English person moving to France. So it makes sense that a French family would head somewhere else. There were many familiar ideas, but I will say that this book is grittier than a lot of the English authors I have read. There are sensitive issues explored for all three of our main characters.

There was a twist in the tail of this story that I was surprised by and I wasn't sure if it worked for me or if I felt manipulated by it. Despite this, I am really glad that I read this book, and I will read more of Grimaldi's books if I can get them in English.

And..spoiler alert...I am doing another Bestsellers Around the World post this weekend. Will Virginie Grimaldi make another appearance?

This post is part of Paris in July, hosted by Emma at Words and Peace.


  1. Yes, French novels tend to be gritty!
    Though funny I didn't realize that would apply to this author, that I have yet to discover! So thanks for your review

    1. Grittier than an English author would be I think.

  2. Great review! That is fascinating, to see how a French person presents a theme that’s become standard in quite a few popular fiction types from various countries. Starting over in a new culture seems to be a dream for many people in many places — but they always want to be somewhere else.
    best, mae at

    1. Must be that thing about the grass being greener on the other side Mae?

  3. Very interesting. I'm curious about the books that become bestsellers in other countries, and yet never make their way to the US where I live. Intriguing.