This is the first of three book reviews about Paris. I didn’t seek them out yet took the opportunity to dive into three very different experiences of living in France. One is best selling romantic novelist, Eloisa James’ family adventure, then a lusty memoir from Tasha Donohue and finally exploring the city while living on the streets with Naturi Thomas. Perhaps something in these few entries will inspire your own memoir or convince you to venture to Paris as well.

The world’s greatest cities beckon travelers to stay long and savor. It takes time to unlock the wonders of an urban landscape. Tour books only take you so far. Staying with locals can help, but wandering favorite streets at different times of day and different days of the week, planning for holidays and special events only comes with a protracted pause.Eloisa James

So it was a thrill to read Eloisa James’ memoir of her family’s sojourn in France in Paris in Love: A Memoir.  The spine of the story follows her reasons for going, her own awakenings as well as her family’s adjustments through the challenges and triumphs of their year abroad.  She turned Facebook updates into over 250 pages that draw the reader swiftly through to the final post. Leaving a comfortable literary life to heal and explore led each member of her family to transform – some more reluctantly than others.

Uprooting children  from everything familiar save for mom and dad always leads to protests. Slowly there is acceptance and one of my favorite passages described the afternoon when Eloisa spies her teenage son on a passing Metro subway train. He looks absolutely at ease (and very French) while standing and talking with friends. Her daughter fights adapting to the French school system but her spirits turn more positive when her nemesis becomes a best friend.

Eloisa sets up a routine – exploring and chronicling each walk and exchange, such as making us root for the succession of immigrants established in neighborhood corner cardboard shelters – and then miss them when they leave. There are celebrations and the birth of her personal style when a purchasing a pair of purple, leather gloves begin the metamorphosis into a delightful, fashion make-over.

It’s a memoir that is hard to put down and made all the more poignant with her detailed and “very idiosyncratic guide to a few places in Paris” at the end. There are small museums, sweet shops, shopping tips, clothing suggestions and because it is an epicurean epicenter, of course more food establishments to explore.

What a delight it would be to walk those same avenues.

If you enjoy armchair travel to perhaps visit the City of Light through another’s eyes or wonder what it would be like to live there for a short year, put Paris in Love: A Memoir on your reading list. It’s worth every minute living in France vicariously.

Elaine J. Masters

Travel writer, co-host of San Diego Travel Massive.

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