It would be easy to turn green over a book celebrating a family’s sojourn to Paris – plein de those glorious Parisian elements that make for such a life-changing experience. La vie en rose, indeed. It would also be easy to see such a book as something un petit peu self-indulgent or perhaps a tad alienating for the myriad families who can’t afford a trip to a caravan park, let alone six years in one of the world’s most desirable cities.
Happily, there is nothing grating nor aloof about A Family in Paris. This is a book of warmth and intimacy that’s a bit like standing on the outside of a pâtisserie in the Marais district – you can see the temptations, you can smell them . . . mon Dieu – you can almost reach out and touch them (if it weren’t for that darned large plate glass of distance).
When author Jane Paech and her family move to Paris, they begin a six-year moment in time that’s as breathtaking as it is pedestrian. Riddled with everyday needs such as school-selection, apartment hunting and the ennui of everyday life (albeit in a foreign culture, in a foreign language), the author’s visions of leisurely afternoons in Parisian cafés are soon overshadowed by the frustrations and challenges of organising a young family (as is the way anywhere in the world).
The charm and beauty of Parisian life, however, becomes an enchanting backdrop for the foibles of family life – and it’s a joy to meander through the cobblestone streets of this book, and tag alongside Jane and her everday rituals around the capital.
What I love about A Family in Paris is indeed the ‘everyday’. The author spent her days taking notes, snapping photos and scribbling down the smallest occurences and observances – that all come together like a groaning pot of bouillabaisse and simmer delectably for our enjoyment. I also love the language the author uses – almost diary-like, almost guide-like, and absolutely straight-up and warm, like an old friend nestled in beside you at Brasserie Lipp on Boulevard Saint-Germain.
Scattered with a divine collection of photographs, tossed about the pages like a vintage scrapbook, this is a gorgeously-produced and styled book. Quotes, maps, stamps, notelets and snippets add to that whimsical scrapbook appeal. From the striking endpapers to diary-like entries, Paech provides us snippety notes on Parisian idiosyncrasies, eye-opening stories, informative tips and suggestions, and personal accounts of her family’s life, making this is a book you can dip into like a croissant in a bowl of chocolat chaud.
Part tourist guide, part memoir, part visual feast – A Family in Paris is a book to treasure and adore like any stolen moment you can achieve in the City of Love. Now I’m just waiting on her New York City sequel. Le sigh.