Originally published in: 2015 (here in the States)
What it’s about: A man who has been grieving (or not so much) his lost love for 20 years by shutting down part of himself and trying to forget, and his path back to life.
What made me pick it up: I had tried to read it once before but was expecting a bit of fluff centered around a female protagonist (for no particular reason) and when I encountered a male one I set it back down. Just couldn’t get into it. Then I got it as a gift for Christmas and gave myself a six-month deadline. Five months in, when I finally picked it up and gave it a try I was quite engaged and it went very quickly.
My favorite things: I absolutely didn’t expect this to fall near my category of grumpy old man books, but it really wasn’t far from it. In that sense it fit my bill. We follow Paris’s Literary Apothecary as he prescribes books for all of life’s ailments, except his own. But once he is force to confront his past loss he…. well, he runs away. Expect to fall wildly in love with the lush description of France’s cities and countryside. You’ll want to throw everything away and rush across the pond to also amble through. Along the way he meets fellow travelers hiding from their own lives and it becomes a tale of becoming, and friendship, and healing. Grief isn’t neat and tidy and its timeline is fluid. I adored how the author presented characters who were decades into their half lives and still solidly grieving. And of course, there are love stories, and tiny surprises, and a lot of forgiveness and compassion and new beginnings. This story will give you hope and do so with stories of the gentlest absurdity that is life. You’ll be thinking of this story long after you finish it.
Who it’s great for: Adults, especially those who feel like they got off track somewhere and are struggling to find the way back.
Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).
Originally published in: 2006
What it’s about: Former Arizonan and current ex-pat Espinasse tells about her foibles in her adopted land of Provence, especially with the language.
What made me pick it up: I am a lifelong Francophile and practice my ever-improving French daily. I tend to gather up any book about living in France that I can, and this one was no different. As soon as I found her blog and found out about this book I knew I had to have it.
My favorite things: This book is mostly in English with a spattering if French phrases sprinkled throughout and then translated either in text or at the end of each chapter. I enjoyed every aspect of this book, from its conversational tone to her slightly clumsy transition from American customs and language to French. She writes with candor and humor and in doing so you believe it just might be possible to move to France yourself and make your way there. In addition, she paints a beautiful picture of her new home region of Provence. You’ll want to visit and experience the sun and the sea and the wine that she talks about. It’s also just a really great peek into French life and how it is different from life here.
Who it’s great for: Francophiles. Anyone working on learning, and stumbling through, the French language.
Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: A woman follows her grandmother’s death bed instructions and heads to Paris to try to figure out the mystery of a broken mask.
What made me pick it up: It was mentioned on a blog I follow. I read Blackwell’s first book The Paris Key and enjoyed it.
My favorite things: Aside from all the French details with which I’m obsessed? Blackwell has a great ability to build in twists to her story. Her characters are fully realized and she keeps the pages to this sweet story turning. She also does love stories really well. If you want a Nicholas Sparks story with a strong female protagonist set in France, pick up these books.
Who it’s great for: Those who like a bit of mystery in their fiction. Anyone who appreciates stories of women finding themselves and love in foreign places. Readers obsessed with Paris/France everything. Fans of Nicholas Sparks.
Find The Paris Key and Letters From Paris at Amazon (affiliate links) or your local library.