You can travel to the capital of France in the blink of an eye – just let your imagination run wild and choose a proper book that will be of a great assistance. Which books about Paris will help you get to know and understand its uniqueness? Here are some suggestions for both those who are just planning a trip there and those who have already fallen in love with the City of Lights and would like to return there.
It is worth starting your journey with books, where Paris is almost another hero, with a classic of the French literature. “Bel-Ami” (Polish title “Uwodziciel”) is the second novel by Guy de Maupassant, a master of short stories, who in his naturalistic works described everyday life of the French, without avoiding criticism. The book “Bel-Ami” is a picture of 19th-century Paris and its inhabitants, including George Duroy, the eponymous hero. He returns to his homeland after military service and plans to make a life for himself. His way, however, will be far from the accepted norms, morals and ethics… The handsome man, full of personal charm, begins to climb the steps of a journalistic career, not shying away from adventures with beautiful Parisian ladies. The pages of this novel feature an elaborate language, engaging storyline and a wonderfully painted city. It is also worth mentioning that “Bel-Ami” was made into a film. The title role was played by Robert Patinson, co-starred by Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Christina Ricci.
Eight centuries, four families, one city. “Paris” by Edward Rutherfurt is an epic novel depicting the rich history of the French capital, from the construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral (1261) to the student protests in 1968. On 900 pages, the author introduces the reader to the events that shaped the city’s identity – related to politics (the Hundred Years’ War, the Revolution, both World Wars) and culture (the construction of the Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Coeur Basilica, the emergence of impressionism). You meet characters such as Coco Chanel, Manet, Hemingway and Monet, although the main characters are representatives of four families. “Paris” is written on a grand scale, and it is filled with the author’s erudition and undoubtful love for this unique place.
In a funny way, i.e. the perspective of an Englishman
If you want to look at Paris with a wink, you should have books by Stephen Clarke on your bookshelf. This British journalist and writer moved to France, which inspired him to create Paul West – an Englishman who describes French customs with irony and humour. His “Paris Revealed”, like the above-mentioned novel by Edward Rutherfurt, can be treated as a guide to Parisian places and a story about the character of Parisians. What’s more, you will find there a lot of culinary tips, as Paris is not only baguettes and croissants! Moreover, in “A Year in the Merde”, Paul West mercilessly ridicules the vices of the French, and his snarky remarks will make the reader burst with laughter. And although he complains about cronyism, constant strikes and paperwork in offices, he cannot imagine living anywhere else than by the Seine…
The city of love… and more
Paris is associated primarily with romantic passion, and that is why such references should also be included in the books, the action of which takes place at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Elizabeth Bard, in the novel “Lunch in Paris”, reminds that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. The book’s protagonist is the author herself, who describes, in the form of a memoir, the city where she found the love of her life. An American woman, who had lived in London for many years, introduces the cultural and linguistic differences, which an average tourist who comes to Paris for a few days, cannot experience. Bard, who gets married to Gwendal from Normandy, lives in Paris and goes a long way to become a Parisian. Cuisine comes to her aid in this task – the author is a great fan of food and loves to cook, and her book is rich in delicacy recipes worth trying out. “Lunch in Paris” also tells story about how choosing the best food, cooking and finally feasting together is an important ritual for the French. It is the knowledge of French specialties that allows Elizabeth to get to know, understand and love her new homeland.
There is also another story that is full of love, written by an author who specializes in putting great emotions on the pages of her books. Jojo Moyes (the author of the bestseller “Me Before You”), in her latest publication, presents a collection of 11 stories, Where the main role is played by the City of Love itself. Each of them presents a story of a man and woman whose lives will be changed by this unique place on earth. “Two days in Paris” (premiere at the end of October 2020) is a walk along narrow, cobbled streets, a wonderful sunset admired from the Montmartre hill, and the sounds of music coming from the boulevards on the Seine – Moyes reminds us of why we love Paris full of charm and magic.