A Parisian Categorie

I had two books set in Paris languishing on my shelves so I decided to cross the English Channel for this category. I thought I had planned my transition quite cleverly by moving from "Lost in Good Book" to "A Parisian Categorie" with a novel entitled The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novelby Nina George. That turned into a bit of a misstep as Ms. George wrote that rarest of books, a book that I put down, stopped reading, and moved on. Something I hardly ever do. 

My mistake, not hers, I thought it was going to be a completely different book, Nina George is a good writer and judging by the number of positive reviews on Amazon--a lot of fans, but this book wasn't the prescription I needed. The main character, the owner, has a floating bookstore set on a barge in the River Seine, he is styled as a literary apothecary dispensing the very "books" that would counteract the hardships of life for his clients, he was said to have an intuitive feel for the exact book that a readers needs.

Forgive me, I expected the book to be about the bookstore, his clients, and the books he recommended as cures. Instead, I left the main character reminiscing about an ancient love affair with a married woman-- the memory involved riding naked and bareback on horses--there was also a mention of sand-- in the South of France. I didn't find it romantic I found it chafing. Her main character left Paris behind in the space of a few chapters and I sold my book back to Half Priced Books. 

 Take two--For my Paris immersion I chose:

  I'll See You in Paris: A Novel by Michelle Gable

A fitting title to begin this category. In the two books I have now read by this author--she has taken fictionalized spins surrounding some real life mysteries. This book imagines an alternate storyline surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the Duchess of Marlborough, Gladys Spencer-Churchill, a complex mysterious woman whose real life story could fill numerous books. This book is about a young woman's quest to understand the Duchess, understand her mother, and understand herself. The story takes us from America to the English countryside and ultimately to Paris. There are multiple storylines set in multiple timelines. I liked it, and as you will come to understand, I have a deep fascination with history.



  Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky 

One of the two books already on my shelf and yes it had been there for awhile. Given its subject matter and the author I knew it was going to be sad and hard to read. The novel is set on the eve of the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940 and it tells the stories of men and women thrown together as they flee Paris ahead of the Nazi forces. The impact of the Occupation is told in interweaving storylines. It is a compelling, harrowing, sad read. 

The real life story of Irene Nemirovsky is even more compelling and heartbreaking than her novel. At the start of World War II she was a successful married writer and a mother, but she was a Jew. She was arrested in 1942, deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For the next 64 years this novel remained hidden and unknown. It still brings tears to my eyes--sometimes all you can do is bear witness. 



 A Paris Apartment: A Novel by Michelle Gable

This is the second book I've read by Ms. Gable, it makes me wonder, in a universe filled with books set in Paris why did I pick two by the same author? Who knows--I expect I was intrigued by the storylines. This novel imagines a tale around the fascinating true story of a treasure stocked Parisian apartment, left abandoned, and only opened for the first time in 70 years. The treasures included a portrait of Marthe de Florian, a famous courtesan, by the Belle Epoch master, Giovanni Boldini, along with love letters, taxidermy, furniture, and a stuffed original Mickey Mouse. You can find pictures of the apartment on line. The real-life story is fascinating enough. 

This novel imagines an alternate side story of a young American woman, a specialist in contemporary furniture at Sotheby's who is contracted to determine the provenance and value of the furniture in the apartment. She becomes fascinated with the story of Marthe and gets access to read her "journals". While many letters and documents remained in the apartment there is no reference to journals so I imagine this is the mechanism the author used to imagine a deeper back story out of Marthe de Florian's known past.

This author loves to paint stories out of the lives of famous (infamous) women, in both cases as with Irene N. the truth is a more compelling fascinating story than the fiction. Of Ms. Gable's two books I liked this one better, and yes I did do a lot of extra reading regarding the actual history behind this story. This novel revolves around relationships, romance, the past and the present. 


  Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman--and never went home again. This memoir swirls around two passionate love affairs-- her new beau and French cuisine. WITH RECIPES Who wouldn't want to read this book. At some point I will get around to trying her recipes and I will post my results in Gourmappetit. 




 The Paris Wife by Paula McLain 

This book had been on my shelf for a long time. It is about Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson, a lot of people are fans of Hemingway--I am not one of them--neither as a man or as an author. As I started reading I kept having the feeling that I had read this before, but as it is a good read, in spite of the Hemingway element I read it again, maybe? Hadley and Ernest had a whirlwind romance and marriage, they left the States and set sail for Paris, where they become a part of the "Lost Generation". He cheats, they divorce, they both remarry...but the love remained. This is a very good well written book.



I am now going to use Lunch in Paris and The Paris Wife to spring off into two separate categories. Lunch in Paris will serve as a springboard for a category about chefs and the restaurant world starting with a most famous Parisian wife, Julia Child. The Paris Wife will serve as a springboard for a category of books that feature "wife" as part of the title.  

I have decided to read these categories in tandem because I think I will need to give the restaurant/chef category a break so that I can keep it fresh.



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Hi! I'm Debbie. Here at Categorically Well-Read I give an extra layer to the reading life. Learn more about me, check out my current category of books, submit your own suggestion, or check out my latest post.