Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Year in Paris: A Tweetable Feast

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Year in Paris: A Tweetable Feast

Article excerpt


By Eloisa James.

Random House ($26).

Tucked inside Eloisa James' memoir "Paris in Love" is a line about a mother and her little boy, begging for food on a department store doorstep during a bitter-cold winter day in 2009.

"Paris is by turns the most beautiful city in which I've lived -- and the most heartbreaking," Ms. James aptly observes.

One paragraph later, she describes her daughter's school Christmas play and an amusing version of "Last Christmas," sung by kids with heavy accents.

Ms. James' memoir of her year in France is filled with these brief, and sometimes arresting, glimpses into the corners of Paris. Social media are largely to thank for how this book was organized and why many readers, used to constantly scrolling through a daily litany of posts and ideas, will be able to appreciate it. It's also why she can easily shift between those two discrete moments. Some may call it shallow, but for readers who don't mind an unconventional narrative, it's a fun read.

In many ways an extension of the Twitter and Facebook accounts Ms. James kept during her year there, the book's format also lends itself to rich details that otherwise might get lost. The paragraphs stand alone, separated by tildes, and likely sprouted from a tweet or status update.

Turns out that in Paris, what Ms. James ate for lunch can be interesting.

It's a smart idea. Paris is big enough to have inspired writers for ages. Ms. James even describes trudging through her great-uncle Claude C. Washburn's lofty 1910 tale, "Pages from the Book of Paris." (Apparently not quite the Moveable Feast she was hoping for.) So why shouldn't she take a 21st-century approach? Why not capture and preserve the precious but fleeting moments?

After beating breast cancer, Ms. James sold her home in New Jersey, took a teaching sabbatical and uprooted her Italian husband and two bilingual children to "live someone else's life -- specifically that of a person who lives in Paris." Our narrator is accustomed to duality: In real life, she is Mary Bly, a Shakespeare professor at Fordham University; she writes best-selling romance novels under the Eloisa James name, too. …

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