Love and Sweets in Paris: Paris in Love, Lunch in Paris, and Paris, My Sweet

23 Oct

Paris, like New York, is a city that conjures up strong emotions and pictures in one’s mind whether or not you have actually been there.  My grandmother grew up in Paris, but moved to New Jersey when my father was two.  I have been lucky enough to visit Paris twice—once as a tween with extended family and once as an adult with my fiancé.

Paris for me always feels both beautifully foreign and yet nostalgically like home.  I grew up with homemade croissants and petite pains au chocolate as a weekend breakfast treat. Thanksgiving included escargots floating in garlic butter before the turkey, and salad was always served at the end of the meal.  I had heard so many stories about Paris that by the time I actually got there it felt like visiting a pen pal who you have written for years; you may have never seen them before, but you already know them so well.

I was interested in these three memoir pieces since all three women left this area (New York or New Jersey) and had their own unique encounters with Paris.  All are enamored with the delicious French cuisine, but they are in different stages of their lives romantically (one single, one engaged, and one married with two kids), which gives a unique view of their experience there.  Whether you have lived in Paris or simply have daydreamed about a trip, you will enjoy these vicarious visits.

Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James

paris-in-love
Eloisa James is the nom de plume of a New York Times bestselling author of historical romances and a Shakespeare professor.  In this memoir she describes the year she spent on sabbatical from her teaching job with her Italian born husband and two children in Paris.  James details both her interest in both French pastries and French fashion.  The work intersperses snippets from her Facebook posts with longer essays.  James was inspired to spend the year abroad after overcoming cancer.  I found many of the longer essays which look at both her time in Paris and invoke her childhood to be very moving, but I also highly enjoyed the moments of humor many of them detailing her son and daughter’s experiences at an Italian Language school and some bits about their ongoing efforts to get their overweight chihuahua to lose weight that made me giggle out loud.  Fans of her romance novels will enjoy an insight into James’s life, but even if you are not a regular reader of that genre, you will still find something to delight in this engaging book.

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

lunch-in-paris

What makes this perspective distinctive from the other two memoirs is that Elizabeth Bard is not simply a visitor or short term resident of Paris, but marries a Parisian and becomes a French citizen.  Because of this she delves more deeply beneath the surface of what it is to be French and must accept how these changes became a permanent part of her life.  The novel begins with her first lunch date in Paris with Gwendal, a young man from Northern France and their subsequent romance.  After spending weekends together, she soon moves in with him in Paris.  The book as she notes does not end in the way of fairy tales with her marriage, but pushes onward through a serious illness of a beloved family member and her further experiences of acclimating to life in Paris.  The book includes a few recipes at the end of each chapter and concludes with her decision to write this book as a kind of cookbook.  Although the recipes are a nice addition for those who want to create a little piece of Paris to eat in their own home, they didn’t feel essential to the book, which felt very rich on its own.  I liked that the book balances her love of Gwendal and the art and charm of Paris with the shifts in expectations of what one’s future will be that come from moving permanently to another country.

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas

paris-my-sweet

Thomas’s book, like Bard’s, will appeal to foodies, but in the place of recipes she includes recommendations for bakeries, cafés, and boutiques for acquiring the delicious treats she chronicles during her time working as an ad executive for Louis Vuitton in Paris.  For those not planning to hop a plane across the Atlantic in the near future there are also recommendations for places where sweets can be acquired in New York City.  Thomas’s stay in Paris does not have a definite end like James’s yearlong sabbatical, but with her struggle to master the language and periodic pining for the States it is clear that she is not putting down roots in the same way that Bard does.  However, her job does allow for some workplace drama and humor that the other two lack.  It also causes her to reevaluate decisions that she has made in her life such as with earlier relationships, which add greater depth to what at first felt a bit of a shallow lark. However, many of these issues such as infertility and which country she will choose to make her permanent home are left unresolved at the memoir’s end.  The wonderful descriptions of the sweets is what truly caries this work.

-Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

One Response to “Love and Sweets in Paris: Paris in Love, Lunch in Paris, and Paris, My Sweet”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Love and Chocolate: Like Water for Chocolate, The Chocolate Kiss, and Chocolat | Hoboken Library Staff Picks - September 19, 2014

    […] a sweet read.  For those who may have sampled the nonfiction Parisian treats I had mentioned in a previous blog post, Florand’s The Chocolate Kiss provides a fictional spin on love and delicious delicacies in […]

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