I’m a sucker for books with the Eifel Tower on the cover… #NoShame.
Author: Eleanor Brown
Genre: Historical Fiction • Contemporary
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
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.
The Light of Paris includes two timelines with two distinct women: Margie in the 1920s and Madeleine in 1999. In the more recent timeline, Madeleine seemingly has it all – the perfect husband, wealth, high society – but behind closed doors Madeleine craves more from life than being her husband’s arm piece. One day Madeleine stumbles upon her Grandmother’s diary from her early 20s when she traveled to Paris. Madeleine soon discovers that her Grandmother had another side to her that she never knew.
I would classify this as a “historical fiction beach read.” Historical Fiction can sometimes be a little heavier, but The Light of Paris was a lighter read with just a touch of depth to it. Both stories are about women discovering who they are & what they want out of life.
I enjoyed Margie’s storyline the most – a young woman discovering herself in Paris in the 1920s. Margie transforms throughout this book from a submissive daughter, in line with how women behaved in those days, to an independent women out for adventure. If I am being honest, I would have preferred the story to have just followed Margie’s story instead of the dual perspective.
I’ve got to admit, Madeleine’s character was a bit of a struggle for me. She just seemed to complain for the majority of the book. She didn’t have a purpose in life, she was unhappy in her controlling marriage, her mother was too critical, she couldn’t eat what she wanted, she didn’t paint anymore, etc. etc. It felt a little “woe is me!” Since Madeleine’s story was set in a more modern time, I just didn’t sympathize with her struggles. Maybe I am too cold, but I can’t sympathize with a woman who allows herself to be treated this way, especially by the people who are supposed to care about her the most. Despite the fact I didn’t care for Madeleine’s character for the majority of the book, I still appreciated her growth from the beginning to the end of the book.
Some of the elements in the story were a little cliché and too many things were tied up too nicely, but overall this was a solid read. If you like lighter historical fiction that has a dual perspective/storyline where the more current story feels more along the lines of “women’s fiction,” then this book might be your cup of tea.
Eleanor Brown is the New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of The Weird Sisters, The Light of Paris and the editor of the forthcoming anthology, A Paris All Your Own: Bestselling Women Writers on the City of Light.
Her writing has been hailed by People magazine as “delightful” and “creative and original” by Library Journal.
Eleanor teaches writing workshops at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, CO, as well as writing conferences and centers nationwide.
An avid CrossFit participant, Eleanor is the author of WOD Motivation and a contributor to CrossFit Journal.
Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Eleanor lives with her family in Colorado.