This is the last of seven daily blogs in which I have tried to give you A Week in Paris, to celebrate the publication of my novel. Some of you might feel inspired to continue the experience, so I thought that I should use it to share with you some of my favourite books about the city. I have deliberately chosen books that seem to be in print, so I hope that you will be able to find them without much difficulty.
PARIS – Julian Green
Julian Green was born to American parents in Paris in 1900 and spent most of his literary career in the city, writing principally in French. In 1984 he published an extraordinary lyrical love letter called simply Paris. What the Observer called his ‘most bizarre and delicious of travel books’ takes the reader on an imaginative journey around the city’s secret places, the stairways and courtyards that you might only glimpse from afar as a tourist, or not at all. It’s full of anecdotes about history and culture and Parisian life and during the course of his journeys he meditates on the delights of getting lost and wasting time, something maybe we don’t do enough of in our day to day busyness. Penguin Modern Classics has issued a bilingual edition (translated by J.A. Underwood), so you can read it in French or English or both, and there’s section of photographs that Green took of the different eras he lived through. It’s a book with which to wander and dream.
THE PIANO SHOP ON THE LEFT BANK – T.E. Carhart
American journalist T.E. Carhart moved to Paris with his family, and the discovery of a little atelier that sold renovated pianos led to him renewing his old childhood passion for the instrument. This is an unusual and joyful book about Paris and music and much else besides and it was inspiring to read it while researching my novel. In A Week in Paris Kitty discovers an old piano shop like it, with a miniature model of a pianist at his instrument in the window. It’s where her husband buys her a wedding present.
ROSIE’S WAR by Rosemary Say and Noel Holland
It’s the freshness of this memoir that appealed to me. Rosie was an ordinary, pleasure-loving girl when she travelled to Avignon in the late 1930s to be an au pair. When war broke out she dithered about going home to England, and by the time she decided to it was too late. What’s more, she was sent the wrong way, and ended up in Paris a few days before the Nazis occupied the city, so got stuck there and eventually interned! It was Rosie’s ordinariness that appealed to me, although this quality made certain reviewers cross. She was in no way heroic, she was perhaps a tiny bit selfish, but she was a survivor.
THE LOVELIEST CHOCOLATE SHOP IN PARIS by Jenny Colgan
Funny, romantic and light-hearted, and it’s about chocolate. What’s not to like? Jenny Colgan’s enjoyable confection has plenty of feel-good factor – and it’s about Paris. Seriously, though, those chocolate shops. Fay in A Week in Paris could not resist the excuse to visit one, and in this novel, you can, too!
Text © Rachel Hore 2014