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.


  1. Hi Fiona, Once again thank you for coming back! I am also reading Sophie Kinsella's latest. In fact, you got me hooked on her novels. They're great fun.

  2. Hi Fiona,
    Thank you for an interesting review. I quite like historical fiction as well as memoirs. I've added this book to my Amazon wish list.
    Since your last post I scrolled through your older posts and found out that I haven't read earlier entries. I've been reading your blog from the begining and realise that you speak for myself. I traced a plan of Chic Habits for myself and the first ones are going to bed in decent time and stop browsing personal internet pages during work since it negatively affects my work flow (I am selfemployed and we have a small family enterprise with only two of us working for it). I record my progress in a small pretty notebook.
    Please keep posting, I so much enjoy your mindset.
    Have a lovely weekend,

  3. I love using google maps too for this purpose...such a great way to learn about places xx PS will check out the good as it sounds really good xx

  4. I shy away from historical fiction too but this one sounds interesting...especially because it is set in Paris.
    Have you read The Paris Wife?
    I enjoyed it.

  5. I think I need to find this book at the library. Love the quotes you pulled out of it, and can see exactly why you did so.

    xo --

  6. Nice review...will add to my growing list of future reads. I just finished "The Orphan Train"--very, very good. And I just downloaded "The Time In Between" today so forward and onward I read.

  7. Hi Fiona, I love Google Maps too, especially Streetview. I'm also not too keen on historical fiction, but the 20th Century I can deal with. Thanks for the recommendation.

  8. Leslie, I have not read The Paris Wife but will order it thank you. Heather, thank you also for the book recommendation.

  9. I am going to add this to my reading list. Too funny, I do the google maps/earth evenings too. Such fun! Comes in handy too before going on trips so you know where you are going in the city.

    Have a great week!

  10. Wonderful review. I'll request it at my library! I have quite a stack to get through but this may go to the top.

  11. I love how you described this book like a French cuisine. I think that is the best way to describe a good book. Thanks for letting us know that it is a bit of a slow read.

    Please visit My Webblog:Online PhD UK Programs

  12. Thanks for the recommendation Fiona, that's a very helpful review. I never thought to look at Google maps with my reading, what a great idea!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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