Janice MacLeod’s memoir, Paris Letters, is one of my favorites. It’s visually stunning, as she includes gorgeous paintings and sketches of Paris along with her fairytale story of how she met her husband in the City of Light. I thought there’d be no way she could outdo herself, but I was so wrong!
A Paris Year: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World comes out today (June 20th) and it’s the type of book you beg and plead and hope will never end. Part travelogue, part journal, and part coffee table book, A Paris Year will appeal to people who know the city well and those who have never been. Or those, like me, who went once and were about to go for the second time.
I was in Paris the week after I read this book and recognized some of the places she wrote about, but certainly learned a ton about others I’d never visited or didn’t know about. She organizes it by month and date, according to the Saints’ Days in France, which fall almost every day of the month. Sometimes an entry will include fun historical facts about figures like Napoleon (both of them) or Edith Piaf, while others will just have photo that says more than any words could describe.
I love her observations of tourists and of locals, and how the cultures of the two differ. Something I never really knew about, but appreciated very much, is that Parisians are content with and take pride in whatever they do to earn a living. That’s not the case in the US by a stretch. But waiters and butchers and cheesemongers are experts in their fields in Paris and are as respected as anyone else in the city. That was very refreshing.
This book is so beautiful, with its photos and drawings, that it’s set a new bar for travel books. I’ve only known of one other book like this (How to Hong Kong, which I reviewed some months back), but Janice MacLeod’s is structured differently and covers all seasons and months of the year. Even though I’ve only been to Paris in June, I can now picture it in August, when the city clears out, or in November, when the days are gray and the trees become bare. Spring seems the most dreamy. No wonder there are several songs written about this time of year there.
A Paris Year is not the kind of book you should lend to others, nor is it the type you should borrow. I’d invest the US$25 and keep it all to yourself. Although you won’t want it to end, you can always read it again and again. I know I will when I return home!