Saturday, July 27, 2013
The Paris Winter
I have just finished reading The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson. This book is not my usual, in that I am not that fussed with historical fiction and generally do my best to avoid it. I much prefer stories set in modern time. But Paris swayed me and so I found myself visiting (and much enjoying) 1909.
The tv series Mr Selfridge has just started here and we’ve seen the first two episodes, so I was tickled to see that this is also set in 1909. I loved the fact that I had a pictorial view of what the times were like in that era and could imagine its Paris equivalent, just across the water from London.
This book is a slower read than my normal choices, in that it took me about a month to read when usually I can get through a title in two weeks, sometimes even one week if it’s a ripper. The last one-weeker I had was Sophie Kinsella’s latest recently.
The Paris Winter is like a hearty and delicious French meal in that you want to chew it slowly in order to fully appreciate the flavours. I actually found myself reading more carefully to ensure I took in the descriptions and words used. The author has quite a magical quality to her writing that makes you remember all the characters and never be confused about what is happening.
The pace carries you along too as I never felt like I was pushing myself to read it. Life is too short for that I have decided, and if I find myself making excuses about picking up a book I have started, I just flag it and move on.
I chanced upon this title from reading a brief but favourable review in a magazine. I am glad I did not know too much of the storyline before I started, so I could enjoy its unfolding set during what was quite a major part of French history. You will probably want to Wikipedia this event as I did afterwards.
A wonderful part of The Paris Winter was a handful of pages at the end of the book outlining who were characters that were taken straight from history, and details of others who were based on or inspired by real people.
It also has an art component, in that the main character is a young English woman who has travelled to Paris to attend art school. There are fabulous descriptions of art peppered throughout the book that even I as a non-artist can appreciate, and it all ties in beautifully at the finish.
One fun thing I enjoyed doing during reading was to Google Map some of the street names that featured in this book, such as Rue de Seine and Place Pigalle in Paris. Using Street View I could have a look around and imagine the characters living there and walking down the footpaths.
I love Google Maps so much and often pop into New York City or Paris for a fix. I even visited Moscow the other evening. Such fun! I really am a cheap date. Sometimes I visit the main parts and other times I drag the little yellow man onto a random suburban street to see how ordinary people in that area live and what their houses look like.
I copied down a few quotes from The Paris Winter as I read it. You might enjoy them too.
(Tanya, a well-to-do young Russian woman, also studying art at the same art school):
‘Always have the means to a graceful exit to hand – don’t you think that is one of the best lessons we learn? I always have a gold sovereign sewn into my travelling dress. Actually half a dozen, so the line isn’t spoiled.’
(The main character Maud, in an upmarket jewellery store in Paris):
There were three other women in the shop, all moving with the slow graciousness of wealth. They were as magnificent and polished as the shop itself.
Image from Wikipedia.