Traveling and books have always been meaningful to me. The history of the cities I’ve been too intertwined with the words in novels purchased at bookstores local to the area. When I was seventeen years old, my parents took me to Paris for the second time but this trip was to be a special one because my birthday fell on one of the days we would be in the city of lights. I was unbelievably excited and had a list of landmarks I wanted to visit during our six day stay. We’d come from London, my parents utterly exhausted by the castle itinerary I’d designed there. “If I never see another castle in my life, I’d be a happy man!” My father had stated on a ragged exhale. But I couldn’t hear him over the rush of enthusiasm pulsating through me. I was still so young, adulthood right around the bend but not quite there. Paris was mine for the exploring and I intended to relish every moment.
I love books because they take me back to certain memories and periods in my life. I consider myself well traveled; my parents never left me behind and, as a result, these eyes have seen five continents. Words have this amazingly intense ability to take catapult you back into time to a place of serene nostalgia.
‘Paris By The Book’ by Liam Callanan was one of those books for me. As I finished reading this novel, sipping on a strawberry daiquiri at the home of a woman whose on connections to France are phenomenal, I was propelled back to that time we spent in Paris. Similar to Leah, the main character of this novel, I was searching for something that summer in Paris. Both of us were haunted by a better version of ourselves lurking right around the river bend. She also had my dream profession at the time- the owner of an Anglophile bookshop nestled on a cobblestone corner in Paris. Unlike Leah, I didn’t have a husband who’d gone missing or two teenage daughters to take care of, but I could relate to the pull Paris had on her all the same.
My twenty-seven year old self also connected to the character of the disappeared husband. Robert, the man Leah had fallen into a loving pattern with, was a writer whose enthusiasm for the craft of writing was often his greatest downfall. Always in search of that perfect story, successfully completing a novel evaded him at every turn. When he disappears, Leah assumes he’s simply gone off in search of inspiration and it wasn’t difficult for me to relate the benefit of travel to a restless writer’s mind. I’ve always personally felt recharged and better prepared to tap into my creative side after a trip abroad.
The characters in this book learn things about themselves through the landmarks of Paris and the books on the shelves of their Parisian bookshop. I would recommend this novel to anyone who has been to Paris, who loves the process of being inspired, who values family, and who would enjoy the magic of nostalgia brought on by the pages of a book. I won’t be turning eighteen in Paris this year but, in my mind, Paris is a constant reminder of how far I’ve come and how far I still have to go.