Today we’re all about the Paris book love. Amy Thomas interviews bestselling author Eloisa James on her latest book, Paris in Love, a memoir of a year spent in Paris enjoying the good life. For a chance to win a copy of the book, leave us a note in the comments below! We’ll pick one lucky reader at random on May 31. ** Update: the contest is now closed. Thank you for commenting! **
’Tis the season for books about Paris. There are new non-fiction titles (Dreaming in French, French Kids Eat Everything), photography tomes (Paris in Color), cookbooks (La Petite Cuisine à Paris) and a slew of memoirs including Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, A Family in Paris and the one I just devoured on my recent trip to the City of Light: Paris in Love by Eloisa James.
Having lived in Paris for nearly two years and written my own memoir, I’ve been giddily burning through these titles, alternately living vicariously, laughing out loud in empathy, and tearing up at the memories. Eloisa’s memoir was no different. A mélange of personal thoughts, family anecdotes, historic and cultural references, practical facts and general observations, delivered in a fun, self-deprecating voice, in short spurts of prose lifted largely from her Facebook and Twitter accounts, it’s hard not to fall for the lovely writer, her Italian husband, her two moody teens or her chubby Chihuahua, Milo.
Partly what makes Eloisa so irresistible is her lack of pretense. A writing professor and best-selling author of romance novels (don’t miss the giveaway below!) who underwent a mastectomy to treat breast cancer, she sold her home, took a sabbatical from work and moved her family to the ninth arrondissement. During her year devoted to enjoying life’s everyday pleasures, she becomes hyperaware of seductive details everywhere, from the “dreamy dark pink” of a tote bag to Sacré-Coeur’s basilica covered by rows of “creamy scallops” to Paris mornings that are “moody, cool and empty.” It’s a book that reminds you of the best things about Paris: the kindness of strangers, those poignant feelings of magic and melancholy, and that food can fix things. Now back in the States, Eloisa took the time to respond to some questions, just for HiP.
Of all the places in the world you could have taken a sabbatical, why did you choose Paris?
I have always loved Paris. Growing up on a farm in Minnesota, I had a black-and-white etching of the city on my wall, and I lived in Paris during my junior year abroad. After being treated for cancer, when I realized that I wanted to run away from my normal life, Paris was an easy choice: I love the chocolate, the light on the Seine, the time — or rather, the lovely way that Parisians savor their days rather than dashing through them.
What were the favorite moments of your life in Paris?
Every day I would drop my daughter off in the Italian school, on one side of Paris, and walk home to the 9th, across the Seine. I loved that hour or so of walking, no matter the weather. Much of the book’s close descriptions come from those mornings.
The format of your book is really intriguing: that you reformatted concise Facebook and Twitter updates and created a strong, coherent narrative. Can you talk a little about the origins of the book: was that a conscious choice to write a book that way, or did it happen more organically?
One thing I knew when we left for Paris was that I had to bring home memories, not just as a series of snap-shots. My father, Robert Bly, is a poet, and when I was in elementary school, he was working on prose poems. Mastering a very short form of prose, even if my snippets have no comparison to his poetry, was an exercise in affection. I resisted turning it into a traditional travel narrative because I wanted this book to give readers the sense I had captured, of small but vivid pleasures.
How is Milo??
Milo, our very, very plump Chihuahua, who paid us a long visit in Paris, is doing just fine. He and my mother-in-law, Marina, live in Florence, Italy, where he is fed far too much prosciutto. During our year in Paris we all engaged in a fruitless attempt to slim Milo down. Alas, Marina called last week and confessed that he has gained weight again. At 26 pounds, that seems impossible! Milo will be ten years old this summer…. We’re not sure that he will live a very long life, but he is definitely living a very happy one!
What is one non-tangible thing you took home from your year in Paris?
Next time you’re in Paris, don’t spend all your time (or even much of your time) being a tourist. Sit in a café and watch the world passing by. Be joyful rather than learned.
“Be joyful rather than learned.” That is a quote for the books, mes amis!
For a chance to win Eloisa James’ wonderful new book, Paris in Love, leave us a note in the comments below! We’ll pick one lucky reader at random on May 31.
- Missed the giveaway? You can purchase Paris in Love here
- Also be sure to check out Amy Thomas’ memoir, Paris my Sweet, here
- Paris in Four Months, by our very own Carin Olsson, also beautifully captures the tiny moments that make us fall in love with Paris over and over again.