Year in year out there are always plenty of an American writer in Paris books on the market but this year seems to have produced a bumper crop, perhaps driven by the many too broke to travel but in need of dream fodder. In Paris In Love, a best-selling romance writer, spooked by a bout with breast cancer, decides to move her family to Paris for one year. Eloisa James, an academic, a writer, and the daughter of famed poet Robert Bly, had dreams of writing long, intricate books while abroad. Instead she cataloged the city in short form, the Twitter and Facebook-sized chunks of prose so familiar to those who spend long hours online. It is a particular affliction of writers who can often be tempted to wile away their writing hours on social media rather than staring at a blank screen waiting for inspiration to hit.
The resulting memoir is ideal for those of limited attention span. The essays are short and there are pages of Twitter-length thoughts and phrases. The small vignettes are brief Parisian moments, word snapshots, some humorous, some exquisitely descriptive. James writes a bit about herself and her family a bit like the affectionate way she creates characters, they are more full of foibles than flaws. In her Paris even the homeless seem happily ensconced in their streetside spots.
The memoir has all of the wish fulfillment of a romance novel, the real world intrudes only in brief mentions such as when James mentions choosing new lingerie after her mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Most of the time the family spends in Paris seems to be spent going from museum to restaurant. Her children don’t seem entirely thrilled by the challenges of a new city and a new language but James frames even these difficulties in charming vignettes. She has an instinctive understanding that perhaps what we need in this world is more beauty, more joy, more Paris.