Paris in Love - Eloisa James A shortened version of this review was originally published at StoryCircleBookReviews:
http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/parisinlove.shtml


There are many memoirs of Paris, but this one is unusual. Written by a bestselling writer of romance novels, it’s simultaneously lyrical, cheeky, and utterly matter-of-fact. Although I don’t like the author’s Regency romances, I thought it was fitting that a romance writer should write a modern memoir about the most romantic of cities – Paris. I wasn’t disappointed: I fell in love with the book and its author.
I should probably mention that in real life, outside her romance-writing gig, the author bears another name – Mary Bly – and is a Shakespeare professor. In her introduction, she explains that her decision to relocate to Paris for a year crystallized after her bout with breast cancer. She took a sabbatical from both her careers – teaching university and writing romances – and moved with her husband and two children, ages 11 and 15, to Paris. During her year in Paris, she wrote multiple short posts on Facebook, an informal journal of sorts, and these entries, organized and cleaned up, formed the bulk of this memoir.
The main theme of the book is the joy of life. Whatever the brief entries are about – the children’s struggles with French or gastronomical delights, the rainy weather or Parisiennes’ flair for fashion, tiny museums off the tourist path or the homeless of Paris – they all brim with humor and sensitivity. Everything the author sees or hears makes her glad to be alive, and she shares her gladness with her friends.
As I read her vivid descriptions, I felt as if I was in Paris too. I followed the heroine on her everyday’s small adventures, savored the unfamiliar dishes alongside her, and admired the centuries-old architecture. I lived vicariously through the keen observations of a marvelous writer.
Here she lusted after someone’s stylish bag, and I recognized myself. There she selected a new lacy bra in a boutique or enjoyed a dessert whose French name sounded heavenly and whose description made me salivate. On the next page, she might include a heart-wrenching essay on the death of her friend or her musing about the French’s propensity for kissing.
Although the details and events of the book are often mundane, seemingly insignificant, it was hard for me to put the book down. I hankered for more. I wanted to know what happened next: the next day, the next street, the next encounter, the next escapade of her precocious daughter of her mother-in-law’s absurdly obese dog.
Laughter was a gift of this book. The author makes fun of everyone, but her prime target is invariably herself. Her irony is never offensive, always tasteful, intertwined with kindness, and her love for her family gleams off the pages.
The language, on the surface deceptively simple, is rich and expressive, and her metaphors are astoundingly graphic. She writes about the roofs and the sky:
The contrast was almost imperceptible, as if marble and air danced cheek to cheek.

Another entry – about her fifteen-year-old son, who for the first time in his life discarded ketchup for the local flavor:
He waved his unopened ketchup bottle in the air and announced: “Do you know what this means, Mom?” Yes, I do. It means that somewhere, in some remote part of the world, a pig just levitated gracefully and flew around his pen, that’s what.

One of her conversations with her husband. It would resonate with parents everywhere:
Paging Dr. Freud: Me, at breakfast, to Alessandro: “The catacombs sound so interesting! In 1741, a man wandered off, and his body wasn’t found for nine years. Let’s take the children this afternoon.” Moment of silence…then gales of laughter. We’re going.

Overall impression: a lovely book; charming, alluring, poignant, and extremely funny.