Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Paris in Love, or Why It's Important to Match Books to Your Moods

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

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.

Against one of the world’s most picturesque backdrops, she copes with her Italian husband’s notions of quality time; her two hilarious children, ages eleven and fifteen, as they navigate schools — not to mention puberty — in a foreign language; and her formidable mother-in-law, marina, who believes dogs should be fed prosciutto and wives should live in the kitchen.

An irresistible love letter to a city that will make you want to head there, Paris in Love is also a joyful testament to the pleasures of savouring life. 
For me the success of a book lies largely in the way someone reacts to it, as well as whether you ever return to it again.

I read Paris in Love for the first time when I was going through a fairly stressful time - quitting my job, moving back home and starting everything anew.  I'd pressed the restart button, determined to truly enjoy my life and do the things I wanted to do, and the book echoed this.

Eloisa James (otherwise known as the Shakespearean scholar Mary Bly - I know, I want to be her!!) had been diagnosed with breast cancer and so, once recovered, took a year's sabbatical and moved with her entire family to Paris for a year.

The book itself is not continuous prose and reads more like a journal, art mimicking life.  Her descriptions manage to capture the way time elongates whilst in Paris, each moment caught to be relieved again and again.
The sky before my study window is pale blue, with airplanes' fleecy vapor trails patterning it like lace, and the building across the street is gleaming in the sunshine. The itinerant brass quartet that occasionally plays in our quartier for money is down on the corner tootling "Blue Moon," with great verve but not such great timing.
I suppose in some ways I reacted to the book like this because I adored the short time I spent in Paris.  There's something about certain cities and towns (for me, there's also Bardi in the Emilia-Romagna region of Nothern Italy, and Edinburgh, with its meandering streets) that makes you want to immerse yourself in every aspect of the culture.  Whether that's noting the colour of the sky or reveling in the noise and bustle of residents, it's what most inspires me.

When writing, I return to settings more than anything else.  I have to be able to completely invision myself there.

And that's what Paris in Love did for me.  It managed to envelop me in a way that almost tricked me into believing that I was back in Paris, drinking chocolat chaud in Angelina or spending hours browsing in the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop.  And it felt so affirming - I didn't feel like I'd missed out on a romantic holiday, but rather that the city welcomed me as it does everyone, with a nod and a raised eyebrow.

A beautiful piece of writing that conjures up family living, Paris and a longing for the holidays Paris in Love is worth every penny.

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