Today I am pleased to present a literary / woman’s fiction offering via France Book Tours. In addition, I am also hosting a giveaway for this title – be sure to enter and you can be the lucky winner to get a hardcover copy of this title!
I had a bit of an up and down reaction to this book. Told in the first person, this perhaps was my largest difficulty. I will admit to being harsh about first person narrative, there is a fine line between moving a story forward with a character’s voice and bringing the forward motion to a complete halt with inclusions of all the ephemera that we normally wouldn’t share with our friends during the day. Here often was a problem as descriptions of numerous Metro journeys, that weren’t used to explain much more than the Parisian underground. Unfortunately, Paris didn’t come alive as I would have expected, in fact place descriptions were far better in a sub-plot of Willie’s travels in India.
Then we have three story lines, with none truly taking precedence or becoming the major focus of the story: whether this was an attempt to use a metaphorical device comparing the rootlessness that Willie finds at her core, the women in the Asylum center and her brother’s remove from the family, I am not certain, but it could be one explanation for the unrelated and unconnected stories that Willie tells that never seem to find common threads.
What emerges is three distinct phases in this book: the asylum seekers who all have stories that could have comprised a book in themselves, their experiences, their lives left behind and the difficulties they are encountering in changing their lives. This is intermingled with the immigrant communities and the struggle that Paris, and the government are facing to integrate them into society in a meaningful way, yet neither presents a conclusion or a complete development.
We have Willie’s search for a poet’s daughter in India, and her hopes to obtain manuscripts and for one short moment she is living the experience of the women she has come to know at the Asylum center. Yes, again she experiences that moment of not quite belonging and utter rootlessness, but this isn’t developed to give us any sense of the real importance of the trip to the overall story. This is the section, however, that contained the best place descriptions and developed a feel for the country and people that made visualization easy and pleasurable.
Lastly we have Willie’s shock and concern when her brother becomes ill, and she learns that he is ill with some new and unknown illness. The setting is 1989, so readers are well aware that he is HIV positive, and even mention is made of friends who died from the same illness. Here we get some, but not a full, explanations of the remove from their parents that both Willie and Luke have chosen, when Luke passes, she truly will be alone in a strange land. Yes, she has a boyfriend and a best friend; both are seemingly perfect, without quirks or foibles to give them depth. In fact, none of the characters are less than saintly and always good. There isn’t a great deal of depth and breadth to the characters, as much as I hoped to see it. In fact, most of the true emotion that Willie displays comes from her choices of poetry and her explanations of the meaning to her students.
I would have preferred a book that went with any of the three sub-plots and developed it fully, giving me a solid sense of Willie and whatever challenge she faced. As it concludes, there are several threads left hanging, and many questions unanswered.
Please note that this book is also available in audioBook and AudioCD options – while I reviewed the written text, I have provided those purchase options for those who may be interested!
Title: Paris was the Place
Author: Susan Conley
Genre: Literary Fiction
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Published by: Knopf
Audio Length: 14 Hours: 36 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance ♦ iTunes ♦ Downpour ♦Audible
With her new novel, Paris Was the Place (Knopf, 2013), Susan Conley offers a beautiful meditation on how much it matters to belong: to a family, to a country, to any one place, and how this belonging can mean the difference in our survival. Novelist Richard Russo calls Paris Was the Place, “by turns achingly beautiful and brutally unjust, as vividly rendered as its characters, whose joys and struggles we embrace as our own.”
When Willie Pears begins teaching at a center for immigrant girls in Paris all hoping for French asylum, the lines between teaching and mothering quickly begin to blur. Willie has fled to Paris to create a new family, and she soon falls for Macon, a passionate French lawyer. Gita, a young girl at the detention center, becomes determined to escape her circumstances, no matter the cost. And just as Willie is faced with a decision that could have dire consequences for Macon and the future of the center, her brother is taken with a serious, as-yet-unnamed illness. The writer Ayelet Waldman calls Paris Was the Place “a gorgeous love story and a wise, intimate journal of dislocation that examines how far we’ll go for the people we love most.” Named on the Indie Next List for August 2013 and on the Slate Summer Reading List, this is a story that reaffirms the ties that bind us to one another.
A copy of this title was provided via for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
This giveaway is open to international entrants, 18 and over please. Drawing will end at midnight on 9 November, winner will be notified shortly thereafter. Publisher will provide copy of title. Just enter using this Giveaway Tool.