Book Review

REVIEW: Paris In Love, by Eloisa James

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Title: Paris in Love
Author: Eloisa James
Publication Info: Random House 2012
ISBN: 9781400069569
Genre: Nonfiction

Book Paris in Love - an illustration of Eloisa James walking around Paris with her husband and kids and dog in the background. In her memoir, Paris in Love, romance writer Eloisa James describes the year that she, her husband, and her two children spent in Paris.  This book is a glorious, frothy confection with subtle emotional depths.  I gobbled it up, but it deserves to be lovingly savored.

This book is fun, and lovely, and delicious.  Because it is written in short, journalistic entries, I could pick almost any quote to share and it would give you a good feel for the book.  Here’s some of my favorites.  I know this is too many quotes, but I’m carried away because I love this book so much!

We just discovered a wonderful creperie, Breizh Café, which makes classic Breton crepes from dark buckwheat flour…We sat next to a grandfather and his eight or nine year old grandson.  They each had a huge classic crepe – with just a dusting of sugar.  They ate them up, and then Grandpa summoned the waiter: two more of the same!  They talked about lions, about how fast and fierce they are.  I thought of a kindly grandpa lion, lying in the shade of a baobab tree, sharing bones and stories with a cub.

 

I’ve been thinking about marriage.  There’s no getting around the fact that the institution leads to the best and the worst of times.  The other day Allesandro looked at me and said, “Are you going out like that?”  I briefly considered homicide.  But then last night he squeezed me and said, “Don’t lose weight.  I like it when you’re curvy.”  I was so glad I hadn’t slain him.

 

After extensive research, I have a blueprint for a perfect tart.  It should be very small, hardly more than a bite, and have a buttery, flaky crust, a bit of pastry cream, and a miniature tower of raspberries.  One or two berries should be topped with edible gold leaf, in order to create the illusion that the eater is Marie Antionette herself, wearing a spun-sugar wig, nibbling cakes, and handing out dining advice.

The book is not a memoir about writing, but writing creeps in, as in this delightful scene:

I have finished my version of Beauty and the Beast!  To celebrate, we went out to our local Thai restraint and discussed titles.  Because my hero was inspired by the television program House M.D., the kids are championing “The Cranky Cripple and the Bodacious Bride”, but my editor tossed that for When Beauty Tamed the Beast.  I like it, though I’m secretly afraid that my hero remains untamed as ever.

I would kill to read a book called “The Cranky Cripple and the Bodacious Bride”.  Seriously.

It’s temping to compare this book to Eat, Pray Love, another story about a writer who basically plays hooky for a year (James did not take the year off from writing, but she did take a sabbatical from teaching).  I have neither read, nor seen the film adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love, but I did read a different book by Elizabeth Berg called The Year of Pleasures.  That book was about healing from grief by learning to enjoy simple pleasures, and what bugged me was that the pleasures, while simple, were neither cheap nor accessible to most of us.   Most people in the world experience grief and most cannot console themselves by wrapping themselves in the folds of a cashmere shawl, or by filling every room in our spacious and lovely home with roses, as Berg recommends.

Thankfully, Paris in Love indulges in an abundance of pleasures without the sanctimonious tone.  Eloisa James never takes her year for granted, and except for one bit in which she urges every woman to take her clothes to a tailor, she’s not doling out life advice.  She’s just sharing this amazing year she had, because she wants us to know about it.   The closest thing to advice might be to take risks, to pay attention to beauty of all kinds, and to love your family.  Still, there is an underlying emotional weight to the book – James is recovering from the death of her mother and from her own battle with breast cancer, and her father is losing his memory.  Even though she doesn’t mention these things often, the shadow of them is ever-present, and when she does speak of them, it’s with great poignancy.  At the end of the book, I found myself in tears, to my own utter surprise.

If I have one issue with this book, it’s that as much as I enjoyed reading about James’ children, ages eleven and fifteen, I was very glad not to be them during that year.  I, personally, would not want my mother to publish an account of me buying my first training bra (even though, as a reader, it was one of my favorite parts of the book).  I would not want the world to know about my math grades, and the kids’ school years sound absolutely horrible.  I’m not criticizing James’ parenting here – she’s warm and loving with her kids, and they are ferociously intelligent, fluent in at least three languages, resourceful and resilient, at least partly because they are expected to face challenging situations.  But I do hope the kids had some veto power over what did and didn’t go into the book.

I took so much joy in reading this book.  I truly meant to read it a little at a time, but I just devoured it.  It was like this beautiful dream unfolding in front of me.  It was a confection as lovely as the chocolate shoe James receives from her husband.  I hadn’t planned to review this book – I picked it up purely as a guilty pleasure.  But with every page I thought, “I HAVE to tell the Bitches about this book!”  Now I have.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    SB Sarah says:

    Sorry about the closed comments – my fault!

  2. 2
    laj says:

    Paris in Love is a wonderful read. Eloisa James has wriiten an interesting and bittersweet memoir. I first read it from the library, but it really touched me so I had to have a copy of my own. Thanks for the review, it reminded me that Paris in Love would be a good Mothers Day gift/read.

  3. 3
    Eloisa James says:

    What a lovely review—thank you!  I just wanted to reassure you that, indeed, both children got to review every entry about themselves and exercise veto power.  Thus Luca appears very rarely and he excised almost everything.  But Anna loves the stage (as may be obvious) and was indignant when some of her year had to be cut to balance the book.

    At any rate, I loved reading this thoughtful response to the book.  And we’re off to London next year (Anna’s 9th grade year—it only seemed fair).  I don’t know if I’ll write another one, but I will report on FAcebook, if anyone wants to follow.

  4. 4
    CarrieS says:

    PLEASE do a London book!  I loved seeing everyone’s personalities come through on the page.  Can totally picture Luca vetoing stuff and Ana going, “more!”  They are lucky to have so many great experiences.  Can’t wait to find out about London.

  5. 5
    Frances says:

    Sounds like an amazing book!
    Great review, it gives an honest opinion without reiterating the same point a million times. Thank you!

  6. 6
    nabpaw says:

    I read this book right before I was set to go to Paris.  I loved it so much that I brought it with me to Paris.  I wish I had been able to visit some of the places she talked about that were off the beaten path, but we had a list of things to do and not enough time to do them in, so wasn’t able to.  Next time!

  7. 7
    Susan says:

    This was a lovely review, Carrie.  Thanks for sharing it with us.  I’ve put it on my wish list (I’m trying to some restraint by wishlisting books for a period before I hit the clicker.)

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