Novella set in the Italian Alps
9th June 2015
Paris Ponderings, observations and 2 novels set in the city.
I was inspired to take myself to Paris after we ran a competition “Top Tips for enjoying a trip to Paris”. What a lot of great suggestions we received! And now I have a couple of further tips to share with you. But maybe I will start with two observations:
What is it with these sassy Parisians who let their dogs defecate all over the pavements, leaving multi-coloured tracers? I hit a squidgy patch with my roller suitcase just outside my hotel (as I arrived hot from the airport) and tried to enlist the help of the concierge to clean up. But I didn’t want to use that delightful word merde (in case it is an unlovely word to use in polite French company), so he thought I was wanting to bring my dog into my room with me. Enough of that, clearly I need to polish my French.
My other observation is that there are a huge number of white vans that are covered in graffiti – and what I want to know is: are the owners doing this themselves or is some sneaky Left Banksy artist coming along and spraying them in the middle of the night? Answers please, I really want to get to the bottom of this conundrum!
And my personal three hit venues in Paris were:
Cimetière du Père Lachaise where you can wander to your heart’s content, exploring the wondrous and sometimes decrepit gravestones of the rich and famous. Edith Piaf maybe, Molière, Jim Morrison or Oscar Wilde, it’s like a treasure hunt of lives past!
Fragonard Perfumes offer you a free (yes, free) escorted tour around a glorious 1860s town house in the Rue Scribe. You learn a brief history of the perfume industry, smell some glorious fragrances, discover the organ of the parfumier and generally enjoy the tour. And there are items to buy at the end that won’t break the bank.
Fondation Louis Vuitton is a relatively new art concept housed in a building in the Bois de Boulogne designed by Frank Gehry. Fabulous architecture with water features and outdoor spaces, exhibiting amazing modern art including Matisse and Picasso and many more. And once you are finished you can walk through the Jardin d’Acclimatation, and back to the nearest Metro stop.
And most importantly what books did I choose to take?
Murder in the Bastille by Cara Black is one of a series of go-to books to evoke the City of Light. The author sets Aimée Leduc, sleuth and forensic computer hack, in different arrondissements around the city as she faces innumerable murders that need solving. The flics are inevitably outwitted by this sassy young woman, whose father was a policeman, killed in a terrorist bombing. Through his work associates, she can call on the input of his former colleagues, although they do have their idionsyncracies.
So, to the plot of this novel set in the Bastille. As the book opens Aimée is having a business dinner, seated next to a woman who happens to be wearing the same Chinese jacket. As she leaves the restaurant, their identities are confused, and Aimée is attacked and left for dead. The other woman is attacked and killed shortly thereafter. The notion of “scratch the Paris dirt and find a body” both past and present seems to be a rather true observation….Both attack and killing are attributed to the Beast of the Bastille, a notorious killer of women, but Aimée has other ideas. And despite an infirmity sustained during the attack at the beginning, she valiantly ploughs on with her investigations with the help of her short sidekick René. Wonderfully observed for locale (loved that she had drinks in a bar on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir, near where we were staying and I pinpointed what I imagined to be the bar!). There is a lot of mayhem as the story progresses, a big rig overturns on the Periphérique, a TGV crashes, there are mad cap dashes across the city, it’s entertaining; and the Bastille, the “cradle of revolutions, mother of street-fighters and artisans” certainly gets a good look-in. You can peruse more of Cara Black’s books set across the city here.
The Ingredients of Love by Nicolas Barreau. What a delightful read, romance is in the air in the City of Light, but everything is not as it seems. A comédie-francaise of love and intrigue. Aurélie Bredin owns a small restaurant on the Rue Princesse, called Le Temps des Cerises – but you will search in vain for this restaurant, although the author stresses that it is actually based on one of the author’s favourite restaurants with its red-and-white-checked tablecloths.
Claude, her boyfriend, walks out one day without so much as a by-your-leave, and she is heartbroken for a few days until she happens to find a book – The Smiles of Women – in a little bookstore where she recognises herself and her restaurant as the central characters. She is charmed by this British author’s rendition and she determines to track down this Robert Miller. Only, Robert Miller is a pseudonym, and as we discover the author’s true identity, a slew of deceits and secrets ensue. How smoothly does the course of true love run? Find out and buy the book! Charmingly written and a mesmerising read, with recipes to evoke Aurélie’s pretty little restaurant.
I had this book on my list for about 18 months and the reason I didn’t feel motivated to pick it up was because of the cover. I have written before about the power of book covers and in this instance I saw, of course, the Eiffel Tower, which sets the book squarely in Paris; but I also saw a young girl with pigtails, which shouted young, carefree, but essentially cheap looking, aimed at Young Adult readers. And green and red for me just don’t work on covers, the eye readily mixes them and makes them more durgy rather than uplifting (you can read my previous thoughts on this ineffectual colour combination here). Nevertheless a great book, well written and absolutely parisien, and I was really pleased that I did eventually pick it up.
Tina for the TripFiction Team