Note: This review originally appeared on my old site, leahatha.com and was published on April 3, 2012.
Last month, a tweet in my Twitter feed announced something called the Early Bird Read program and the free book was entitled, Paris in Love, by Eloisa James(aka Mary Bly). At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about the author but had recently vowed to expand my reading tastes in order to fertilize the “leaf mold of my mind”. A memoir was just the change I was looking for.
The book arrived the next day, with an official address label from the publisher, and that alone made me giddy. I skimmed the back jacket and realized that Ms. James writes historical romance. I groaned a bit. She writes “bodice rippers”(see note at the end of this post, EJ fans)? New York Times bestselling “bodice rippers”? What had I gotten myself into?
As it turns out, what I “got” was a very well written memoir with (barely) a mention of anything sex related; no ripping bodices or panting heroines. This memoir is unique because it is a compilation of tweets, Facebook status updates and essays. Although it would seem that this would make for an incoherent work, it is far from that. The style makes for a quick read with enough depth to satisfy the snobbiest of readers. Ms. James’ well-educated (Harvard/Yale/Oxford) writing does not disappoint and the memoir is a delicate, multi-layered literary sandwich of humor, Paris, love, family, friends, dogs, cancer, change, and grief. I found myself reading it before bed, and stopping every few sentences, laughing, to read aloud to my husband. The paragraph below, from page eighteen, is a personal favorite.
Anna flung open the door of the apartment open after school: “Mom! I was attacked today!” “What happened?” I asked. “A girl named Domitilla slapped me!” Anna said, eyes open very wide. “She said I was screaming in her ear.” We chose Anna’s former school in New Jersey with an eye toward just this sort of encounter: they devoted a great deal of time to teaching the students to reject violence, studying Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and practicing conflict resolution. I inquired hopefully how Anna responded to her first real taste of playground aggression. “I slapped her right back,” my daughter explained. “My hand just rose in the air all by itself.”
In contrast, I also found myself battling tears, as when I read this paragraph from page 77.
At fifteen, Luca has left “Mama” behind and now calls me “Mom,” whereas Anna still howls “Mama!” across the whole apartment. It occurred to me yesterday that the day will come when no one will call me “Mama,” and I won’t realize it that day, or even the day after, just as I have no memory of Luca’s last “Mama.” There are so many Last Times in parenting-the last book read aloud, the last nursing session, the last bath.
I don’t have the space (or time-mothers never have enough) on this blog to cover all the many nuances and topics covered in this book but I will say, get a copy. Add this book to your summer reading list. It won’t disappoint. It feels strange to write this about a memoir but Paris in Love was an absolute delight. If you plan to travel to Paris, Ms. James has also included an “idiosyncratic guide to a few places in Paris” that contains information that could only be discovered by a Parisienne. You can read more excerpts, reviews, a readers guide for yourself (or book club) as well as a book club party kit at http://parisinlovebook.com/. If any of you decide to have a book club to discuss this book and then travel to Paris, consider taking me along, okay?
Happy reading, everyone!
Note: I haven’t read anything that Ms. James has written other than the memoir. I have no idea if her novels are the stereotypical “bodice rippers”.
This book was a freebie from the publisher as part of Random House’s Early Bird Read program. No review was required in return for the book, and not a single link in this post is an affiliate link. I published the review because I liked it.