Monday, May 28, 2012

Paris in Love by Eloisa James

There's something romantic and courageous about those families who sell everything and move to Europe for a year. I'm always fascinated by their stories. Susan Pohlman's Halfway to Each Other told about her family's move to Italy to try to save their marriage. When professor and romance writer Eloisa James survived her bout with breast cancer, she and her husband took their two children to Paris, although only her husband, Alessandro, spoke French.

Two weeks after her mother died of cancer, Eloisa James was diagnosed with the same disease. She never had one of those life-changing moments, but after her surgery, she began to divest herself of possessions. Then, she convinced her husband they should sell the house, take sabbatical years from their jobs as professors, and pack up the kids. They put their kids in an Italian school in Paris, since they were bilingual with an Italian father and an American mother. And, Eloisa had the chance to spend a year living "la vie Parisianne."

During the year the family was in Paris, James wrote Facebook posts and Twitter posts, sharing their experiences with friends. It's those posts that she organized and put together into Paris in Love. Although each season of the year, and a few other sections, have introductory chapters, the majority of the memoir consists of those short comments. And, they're charming comments, filled with humor, food, and James' observations of their lives and the city of Paris.

Some of the humor comes from the stories of the two children, Anna, 10, and Luca, 15, both reluctant transplants to Paris. But, some of the humor comes from a lack of understanding of the language. "Quelle horreur! The guardienne came to clean and noticed that our glassware was smeared, which has been driving me crazy. The box of dishwashing powder that we'd been using? Salt! It looked like dishwashing powder, it was under the sink, and I never bothered to puzzle out the label. We have been running the dishwasher with salt alone for two months."

Then, there's Milo, the overweight Chihuahua owned by Alessandro's mother, Marina. Although the dog is twenty pounds overweight, Marina won't accept that her delicate dog has a problem Milo's story appears throughout the book. "Milo has been back to the vet for a follow-up visit. To Marina's dismay, her Florentine vet labeled Milo obese, even after she protested that 'he never eats.' Apparently the vet's gaze rested thoughtfully on Milo's seal-like physique, and then he said, 'He may be telling you that, but we can all see he's fibbing.'"

There are moments of humor, moments of beauty, and times of thoughtful reflection. Eloisa James is eloquent in her love of the city. She even includes notes at the end of the book to make visiting Paris easier, museums to see, restaurants to try, shops to visit. Paris in Love is a story of family and self-awareness. James says, "My Parisian December went a long way to mending a crack in my heart caused by the words 'the biopsy is positive.'" This daughter of a poet (Robert Bly) has a gift of the poetic turn of phrase. She eloquently expresses her love for life, for family, and for Paris in this charming memoir, Paris in Love.

Eloisa James (aka Mary Bly) has two websites, and

Paris in Love by Eloisa James. Random House. 2012. ISBN 9781400069569 (hardcover), 260p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Lynn in Texas said...

Lesa, I love these kinds of stories. Thanks to your review I've added another book to my towering list!

Ingrid King said...

This sounds like a wonderful book - yet another one to add to my list. Thank you for this great review, Lesa.