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Monday, July 20, 2015

Paris In July: Paris on the Bookshelf

So many of you wonderful Paris In July bloggers have written about remarkably complex, eloquent and classic books related to Paris and my "to be read" list is growing by leaps and bounds. This list is a tad more routine, perhaps -- or maybe not! It includes a number of my recommendations (and not-so-much) of Paris-related books.

 

Let's start with a favorite, "Paris," by Edward Rutherfurd. I love this historical fiction writer's style, taking a region (or in this case, a city) and following it throughout history through the lives of several families whose lives intersect over the generations. With Rutherfurd we step onto the scaffolding as the Eiffel Tower is being built, back to the court of Marie Antoinette, through the revolutions and the World Wars, and much in-between. His handy family tree chart in the front of the book guides you as he jumps from one period and then back to another in a somewhat non-linear fashion. That took some getting used to but once I did, I was hooked and read like a crazy girl! Good writing, good history, good characters!

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 Another favorite, "Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman" by Alice Steinbach, has enough about Paris to say that it qualifies. Steinbach says that she had fallen into the habit of "defining myself in terms of who I was to other people and what they expected of me." The book is her quest to find out who she was apart from those people. Her travels take her to Oxford, Milan and of course, Paris, where she finds not only her soul mate but a wonderful group of travelers and terrific experiences. She is a marvelous writer and I heartily recommend this one as a travel memoir.

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David Downie moved from San Francisco to Paris in 1986. "Paris, Paris: Journey Into the City of Light" chronicles his life as a new Parisian,  He breaks the city down into categories such as Paris Places ("The Luxembourg Gardens," "Ile Saint-Louis," "Place des Vosges," and seven others); Paris People ("Coco Chanel," Les Bouquinistes, "Midnight, Montmartre and Modigliani," "Paris Artisans," and six others and Paris Phenomena ("A Dog's Life," "Why the Maris Changed Its Spots," "Life's a Cafe" and eight more).His writing style is engaging and whether you relate to the topics because having been there -- or because you'd like to be, I think you'll find it most enjoyable.

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And now for something completely different, "Death in the City of Light" by David King. This true story focuses on Dr. Marcel Petoit, a serial killer who charmed Paris during the Nazi occupation. He preyed upon the city's most vulnerable who were seeing to escape the city and the Gestapo and subjecting them after death to a different crematorium -- the one in his own basement. It is well written, shocking and fascinating.

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Finally, one I didn't like so much -- "A Town Like Paris" by Bryce Corbett. OK, I think this is a case of age coming through. Corbett moved from a routine London job to a relatively routine Paris job, simply to try something new and live in Paris for a bit. He was young, twenty-eight and living the wild and crazy life that lots of younger people do -- work, party, party some more. For awhile it was entertaining. After awhile I just wanted to say "grow up." And he finally does, sort of. But not soon enough for me. Might be your new favorite, who can say?

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There are others on my pile I haven't read yet, not the least of which is David McCullough's "The Greatest Journey." His writing usually falls into the "favorite pile." Hopefully this one does, too!


This post is part of Tamara's Paris In July blog event. For more posts related to travel, books, movies and Paris history, photography and more, check the right-hand column of her blog at Thyme for Tea!

27 comments:

Mae Travels said...

That sounds like a very interesting collection of books. I love the pic with the raven.

Paulita said...

Jeannie, What fun all of these Paris books. I do love the one by Edward Rutherford. I reviewed a couple that unfortunately didn't bowl me over.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Thanks for sharing some of your favorite stories about Paris (as well as the not-so). I'm always on the lookout for more good Paris books!

http://readerbuzz.blogspot.com/2015/07/weekly-wrapup-continuons-lire-paris.html

Monica's Bookish Life said...

Thanks for sharing those books. I haven't read any of them although they looks like ones I'd enjoy. I've also been looking at the David McCulloch book.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

What a great array of books about that magical city! It's truly an inspiration for so many works of art, literature and music. I can't believe it has been 46 years since I was there! Must go back...or at least, read some of these wonderful books!

Nancy said...

Well you certainly added some interesting reads to add to my summer reading list.....I hope you are having a wonderful summer...

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I have only read the first two but loved both of them! I read the eBook version of Paris by Rutherfurd and when I was reading it, I was wishing I was reading the physical copy because it would have been nice to reference the family tree (too much of a pain to flip back to it in the eBook).

I have so many Paris books, I think I have over a shelf of them now! I will have to add the other ones you mentioned to my ever-growing list of books to read!

Retired English Teacher said...

I keep saying I have to get out of Paris. I've read so many books taking place in Paris lately. I am reading a very interesting book right now: When Paris Went Dark by Ronald Rosbottom. I have found it so well researched and grounded in history that I've learned a lot about Paris during the WWII. I just finished A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead. It is about the women of French Resistance. It is quite dry, and at times it frustrated me by the author's style of writing and by her lack of tying stories together in a better way so that the reader could follow the personal histories better. Still, it was also very interesting in that I knew so little about the brave women of the French Resistance that suffered so much. I will have to read these books. I guess I won't be leaving France anytime soon. (In my reading, I won't be leaving. I wish I were really there!)

Retired English Teacher said...

Have you read The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay? It is an interesting book, but it rather haunted me.

Esme said...

Paris by Rutherford was such a good book. There are so many great book about France out there.

Ally said...

These are great books to look forward to next Paris in July :)

Jenny Woolf said...

Oh Jeanie, you need to find a way to live in Paris for a while. You have been so fascinated by it for so long. Have you considered a home exchange, perhaps with an academic who needs a 2 or 3 month break away from town? You could have such a lot of fun exploring. And maybe pop over to London too! it's just a train ride away :D

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh, I haven't read any of these, and now you are reminding me to do my annual summer read of a French novel; I enjoy sitting in my garden reading Les Miserables or Jean de Florette, Manon des Sources, Le Château de ma Mère and Le Gloire de Mon Père! Oh what a wonderful summer this has been...ENJOY YOURSELF!

The French Hutch said...

Hi Jeanie, I see several books from your list I want to read. I love reading books that take me back to France and Paris. Thanks for sharing your list, I thought I'd read all the good ones already!

Joanna Jenkins said...

This is the first I've hears of "Paris in July". What a fabulous idea and some really great book suggestions! i've always want to go to Paris, but since that doesn't appear to be in the cards, I'll check out some of these reads instead. Thanks!
xo jj

Laura Quaglia (Fun With This and That) said...

I'm going to try a couple of these books
Thanks Laura

mel u said...

InreadcRutherford's trilogy on Ireland a few years ago, very well done. Based in your review I have added his Paris to my list.

Marilyn Miller said...

I love your list and have actually read the first two recommendation. Both of them I enjoyed. Now I must explore the rest of your list and add some ideas to my bucket list of books to read.

Bella Rum said...

Death in the City of Light" sounds like something I'd enjoy. What does that say about me? Ha!

Teddyree said...

Adding to my list for the next Paris in July and whilst I dream of returning ... there are always books :)

Arti said...

I'll definitely refer to this list when I have time to dwell into reading Paris. Thanks for all the detailed write-ups, Jeanie! And yes, I'm back and have just posted my Paris in July entry. ;)

joyce said...

You sure fell in love with Paris when you went there didn't you? I confess Paris doesn't interest me much, but maybe if I read some of those books I would change my mind.

Maggie said...

That's quite an interesting selection of books, the Rutherford book sounds like something I'd enjoy reading.
Thanks for the recommendations.

Louise said...

What great suggestions. I've had the Rutherford and the Downie on my horizons for a while, but I must admit to being daunted by the size of the Rutherford, it's very rare for me to get through a book that size. I don't think I've heard of anyone who has read Paris, Paris and I'm very glad to hear that you liked it so much. I just ordered A Town Like Paris online in the past week or so, I find it almost impossible to resist stories of Australians in Paris.

shoreacres said...

I have a book for you -- it's pure Paris, and it's more of a reference book and a historical survey. It's called Walks Through Lost Paris, by Leonard Pitt. Here's a snippet from the back cover:

"Between 1853 and 1870, hundreds of streets disappeared in Paris. Nearly 20,000 buildings were demolished, and 45,000 constructed in their place. Much of the city's history was lost...

"When Leonard Pitt discovered that the Parisian neighborhood in which he once lived was entirely rebuilt during this period, he plunged headfirst into archives to try and reconstruct the city that was demolished. Walking through neighborhoods with 19th century maps and photos in hand, he searched for lost places. This book details his discoveries. Through four walking tours, complete with maps and full-color photos, diagrams, and engravings, the massive transformation that resultedin the Paris we know today is brought to life."

It's a wonderful book! I picked it up after seeing an exhibit of Charles Marville's photos here in Houston. You'd love it.

Arabella said...

I have wondered about the Rutherford novel and I also loved Without Reservations a great travel book!

Janet Briggs said...

These are all new to me so now I have some books to add to my (very long) to-read list.

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