Friday, November 22, 2013

Paris in Love: A Memoir

If you are looking for a book to enjoy over the coming holidays—with their sometimes unexpected pockets of downtime for reading!—I highly recommend Paris in Love: A Memoir. Author Eloisa James—aka Mary Bly when she’s penning romance novels—has written a beautiful book full of surprising epiphanies. Sometimes they come in the form of things she sees in Paris, sometimes they come from her husband and kids, sometimes they come from her thoughts on writing. You will find yourself, as I did, relating to many of them.

James and her husband, Alessandro, both professors, decided to sell their house in New Jersey and move to Paris for a year with their children, aged 15 and 11, after James’ bout with breast cancer. Her book comes from the Facebook posts she wrote over the course of their year in Paris, giving it its fast read in bite-size bits, with more leisurely essays in between. The result is a standout offering on the Americans-who-love-Paris theme since James, while charmed by the City of Light, never loses sight of the fact that she and her family are staying there a year, not forever. She observes Parisians but doesn’t try to become one of them. The entertaining way she writes about her children settling in—middle and high schools sound very tough in Paris!—makes you want the whole family to move to Germany, Scotland, Tahiti, anywhere really, just to see what would happen, and what insights James could glean from them, and herself, that would find relevance in all of our lives.

A few of my favorite parts of the book:

“Ballerinas fall out of the conservatory on our street, eager for a smoke. They cluster around the steps, hip bones jutting. Today, two of them are resplendent in pink tutus, absentmindedly stretching their hamstrings.”

“Parisian life is small and quiet. I pack the children off to school and then think greedily about how many hours I have before they come home. I have come to the conclusion that silence and time are the most precious commodities.”

James also has lush, wonderful writing concerning both age and fashion.

“Alessandro and I followed an exquisite pair of legs out of the Métro today. They were clad in flowery black lace stockings and dark red pumps. Their owner wore a coat with five buttons closing the back flap, and gloves that matched her pumps precisely. We walked briskly up the steps, and I turned around to see the front of the coat, only to find that the lady in question was at least seventy. She was both dignified and très chic. Old age, à la parisienne!

“At lunchtime Alessandro and I strolled over to a Hôtel Drouot auction preview featuring vintage haute couture, that is, designer clothing made completely by hand. I tried on a Chanel opera jacket that must have weighed fifteen pounds, thanks to the exquisite, heavy gold embroidery and beading—thousands and thousands of tiny hand stitches and shining bright beads. For just a moment, I felt like Grace Kelly.”

I savored this book every night, along with a Lindt truffle, and James, a lover of chocolate herself, would approve I’m sure! There are wonderful sections in the book about Paris at Christmastime, so treat yourself right and pick up a copy of Paris in Love to luxuriate in over the holidays.

I highly recommend having a few Lindt truffles while reading Paris in Love.

And have some chocolate on stand-by!

You can learn more about Eloisa James at her website,


une femme said...

It sounds wonderful! Am adding to my reading list. You write wonderful reviews, I might add.

Jill said...

Hi Deja, thank you for the compliment! I really enjoyed this book so much so the review was a pleasure to write. And speaking of great reviews, yours on Tish Jett's new book has single-handedly made me want to read it! XO, Jill

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Sounds like a book that I would enjoy I am adding it to my must read list. Thank you for the review.

Heather Lindstrom said...

Hi Jill!
I have devoured so many books written in both France and Paris. They really are my favorites. I've seen a couple of excerpts from this book but your review makes it a must read (with Lindt!). Great post.
By the way-we would've loved for you to have joined us in SF. Hopefully someday soon!
xx, Heather

Suzanne Carillo Style Files said...

Sounds like an interesting read. One of my favourites is A Year in Provence. Brilliant and funny insight into the French.


Anonymous said...

Read this book when it first came out - loved it. Your review makes me want to re-read it again.

The scenes with Milo the obese dog were hilarious.


Paula Ruta said...

Jill, I am actually reading another book/author you had recommended; The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I am enjoying that and will put this next one on the list too. I had read some excerpts from this one also, as I am a all about all things french. And looking forward to Tish's book also! xoxo

Jill said...

Hostess, I really think you would like this book. It seems right up your alley! XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi Heather! I just happened to come across this book on the shelves at the library, I hadn't heard of it at all. I'm glad I checked it out because I enjoyed it so much. I am terrible with the Lindt, I know it's bad to eat chocolate right before bed but I can't help it and have one every night! My favorite right now is the caramel-chocolate truffle. Sooooo good. XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi Suzanne, oh I loved 'A Year in Provence' when I read it. I should read it again, it's been forever. I really feel like that guy put all these living-in-France books on the map. I was a bookseller when that book came out and I remember how popular it was. XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi Rosie! I could've done a whole separate review just on the stuff with Milo the overweight dog. So funny and I loved how Alessandro's mother could NOT stop pampering that dog. Ha! XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi Paula! If you read Tish's book, let me know what you think, I don't have a copy yet. I LOVED 'The Secret History' I read that book so many times. Let me know what you think of it! You were killing me last time with your comment that you made your book club read 'Moll Flanders.' Hahaha, I bet they gave you the boot! I had to read all that Defoe stuff because my major in college was English literature before the 18th century. I despised Defoe and many others like him. Do not even get me started on how much I hated 'The Adventures of Roderick Random' by Tobias Smollett. Thank God literature got better after all those terrible books (I hated 'Pamela' by Richardson as well). My favorites in college were Chaucer and Shakespeare! XO, Jill