As some of you know, I am on a huge audiobook kick right now. I saw Paris in Love on the shelves in my library, and if you know me, you know anything with Paris (or France in general), or love is likely something of interest to me. The author’s name was fairly familiar, but I don’t know that I actually read her bio so I couldn’t say why. I simply saw it was a memoir about a year in Paris, and I grabbed it. The narrator, Ms. James herself, was pleasant to listen to, and actually reminded me of an aunt, so I extra liked her voice. I was a little taken aback initially at the very short, (and in some cases, I mean short. Like, a sentence or two) entries. Some were longer essays, but those were much less common. I quickly came to enjoy the short passages, which made it easy to listen to on errands and I never felt like I lost my place in the “story”. I liked getting these little glimpses into the author’s life. It was just like reading someone’s diary entries. Not that I’ve ever done that…
As for the actual content, I was entranced. I’ve always wanted to travel to Paris, really to anywhere in France. I speak rusty French, having taken it in middle school, high school, and college. I adore the language, the food, the culture, the fashion (!), and more. Listening to this audiobook was like being there. I got to know Eloisa, a professor who took a sabbatical and decided to move to Paris for a year following cancer remission and the death of her own mother. Along with her was her Italian husband, and their two very interesting/fun/precocious children Luca and Ana. The story was excellent. I felt like I was there cooking risotto with her, shopping for vintage couture (or, at least trying it on), going to beautiful museums, speaking with locals. I felt her exasperation, frustration, and joy as her pre-teen, and teenager waded their way through Italian school, making friends, enemies, and memorable experiences- both good, and bad. I loved hearing about her husband’s French foreign language partner and his love life. There was some funny moments about Milo, the overgrown dog that now belongs to Eloisa’s mother-in-law. Overall, the descriptions were vivid, painting such a strong picture I fell in love with her way of describing what she sees, hears, feels. If it doesn’t sound too creepy, I’ll add that I became very endeared to her family. I tried to picture what it would be like moving there with my own husband, and three (very young) children. It seemed like such a brave and exciting thing to do. I was impressed, and I admit, rather envious. I wanted to be there, too.
It wasn’t until I was through the story about halfway that I realized, duh, this author was an author/writer PRIOR to this book, and oh yeah, she writes great romance novels! Knowing she was a fellow writer (albeit a different genre, and obviously way more accomplished than I) made the listening even more enjoyable. I relished hearing about her own experiences writing during her time in Paris, because at least for me, there’s a kind of voyeuristic pleasure in hearing how other writers write.
As the story neared the end, I became a little sad, and I couldn’t figure out why. There was some bittersweet stories, of course, many moments which in between the food, and the fashion, and the family, were a revelation in their own, particularly when she talks about the death of a close friend. But, I found I was sad for another reason, and that was simply because the story was ending. I didn’t want to say good-bye to Paris. I had fallen in love with the city even more than I’d thought I could, just through the author’s words. As I finished the last track, I knew with certainty two things. 1. I will make it to Paris someday, God help me. And 2. I will definitely read more of her books. Oh, and 3. I will buy this book in hard copy so that I can actually read it instead of listen, just to get the experience in a new way.
5 stars for a lovely story.
Au revoir, Paris, and Ms. James. Thank you for sharing a year of your life.