Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Light of Paris

In my last post I talked about  the start of summer reading season. While my own summer reading this year will include, as always, its fair share of classics and British middlebrow novels, I'll also be making a point to read at least a few of the season's new releases. The first such book that I can  recommend is The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown, author of the very good debut novel, The Weird Sisters.

 In The Light of Paris, Brown alternates between two eras with parallel story lines-- a plot structure that I always enjoy. The contemporary half of the story, set in 1999, centers around Madeline, a thirty-something woman who has lost herself by trying to conform to the expectations of others, first to please her cold, high-society mother, then to please equally cold, perfectionist husband whom she married out of convenience. As she contemplates the possibility of a divorce, she returns to her childhood home in a quaint Southern town where she reassesses her life and rediscovers her love of art. While there, she also discovers a set of journals kept by her grandmother, Margie, during the 1920s. They tell the story of how Margie escaped similarly rigid societal expectations by spending a year living in Bohemian Paris.

Neither Margie's nor Madeline's story lines are perfect--the way the former's ended left me a bit unsatisfied while the latter's personal journey felt repetitive at times, with many scenes in which her "heart aches" as she remembers choices from her past. In spite of that, both heroines are likable and easy to root for, and novel's wonderfully drawn settings more than make up for any other imperfections. It turns out that alternating scenes of a charming Southern town and Jazz Age Paris make the perfect combination for a enjoyable summer read. The beautiful descriptions of Paris were especially captivating--almost enough to convert this Anglophile to a Francophile, at least temporarily. This is an ideal beach read, although it's one that may make you want to leave the beach early to go home and rewatch Amelie or Midnight in Paris just to soak up more of the French atmosphere.

(A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)


  1. I've been on the fence about trying this, but you may have pushed me over to the 'yes' side! I love reading books set in France during the summer so this would be a great one to put on my list.

    1. I think you'll enjoy the descriptions of Paris!



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