Published by Penguin on July 12th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Women, Literary, Family Life
"I adored The Light of Paris. It’s so lovely and big-hearted—it made me long for Paris." —Jojo Moyes, New York Times-bestselling author of Me Before You and After You
The Light of Paris is the miraculous new novel from New York Times–bestselling author Eleanor Brown, whose debut, The Weird Sisters, was a sensation beloved by critics and readers alike. Madeleine is trapped—by her family's expectations, by her controlling husband, and by her own fears—in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted. From the outside, it looks like she has everything, but on the inside, she fears she has nothing that matters.
In Madeleine’s memories, her grandmother Margie is the kind of woman she should have been—elegant, reserved, perfect. But when Madeleine finds a diary detailing Margie’s bold, romantic trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets the grandmother she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict, staid family and spent an exhilarating summer writing in cafés, living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist.
Despite her unhappiness, when Madeleine’s marriage is threatened, she panics, escaping to her hometown and staying with her critical, disapproving mother. In that unlikely place, shaken by the revelation of a long-hidden family secret and inspired by her grandmother’s bravery, Madeleine creates her own Parisian summer—reconnecting to her love of painting, cultivating a vibrant circle of creative friends, and finding a kindred spirit in a down-to-earth chef who reminds her to feed both her body and her heart.
Margie and Madeleine’s stories intertwine to explore the joys and risks of living life on our own terms, of defying the rules that hold us back from our dreams, and of becoming the people we are meant to be.
From the Hardcover edition.
Back in 2012 I read Eleanor Brown’s debut novel The Weird Sisters and I adored it. It was a fantastic read, although I will confess that it was probably, in parts, a bit too high brow for me. I probably missed a lot of context in the novel, it was written so lyrically, but I loved it. It was such a good read. So much so, that I’ve been hankering after a new Eleanor Brown book for years. I thought one was coming a year after The Weird Sisters, but that was Amazon being tinkers. Instead it has been four long years, but The Light of Paris is finally here, and it was so worth the wait.
I actually really love stories that are set over two time periods, and have two different voices. It’s always so intriguing to me to hear from voices way back when, times I’ve never heard of or never experienced, it’s always really eye-opening and Margie’s life in the 1920s was both sad and amazing. It’s actually pretty scary how similar Margie and Madeleine’s lives are, considering there’s 70 years between them, but as it turns out, 70 years changes nothing when it comes to parental expectations, clearly. Considering what Margie goes through, it kind of baffled me how Madeleine’s life turned out, you would kind of hoped that something might have changed? But, no. I would have actually loved more of Margie’s story, because it just felt like there was more to the story, afterwards.
There was very little wrong with this book, I really loved Madeleine’s voice, and it was interesting to see her find herself, after so many years spent under other people’s thumbs. Sure, it kind of baffled me how she had lived her life – after all, this was not actually the 1920s but the late 1990s, so if she was unhappy in her marriage surely the right thing to do would be to leave? Instead of stay out of misguided loyalty? But, maybe that’s just the way for some people, and not having been in that situation myself it’s hard to judge. Seeing her in her element, in her hometown was amazing, and I loved her friendship with Henry. He completely brightened up the novel.
I really enjoyed The Light of Paris. The dual storyline was amazing – Madeleine’s voice was strong and really easy to read, and then Margie’s story really was thrilling, to see someone experiencing something so transformative was delightful. You could feel Margie’s excitement at being in Paris, you could literally walk the streets with her in your imagination. Eleanor Brown truly is an amazing storyteller, and if it takes her another four years to write book three, I am FINE WITH THAT. Because it is so, so worth the wait, and this will be a book I purchase and put on my keeper shelf, because it was truly delightful.