It is no secret that Paris is one of my favorite places in the world. I dreamed of going to the city of lights from the time I was 12 until I was able to go in 2001 and I have returned two more times since then. Needless to say, books set in Paris are always of interest to me.
I picked up Eleanor Brown’s The Light of Paris with curiosity and joy and when I put it down I felt fulfilled and satisfied. The novel alternates between Madeleine in 1999 and her grandmother, Margie, in 1924. There are similarities in both women. They are stuck in archaic and bourgeois notions of what a woman’s role should be and feel suffocated by their reality and dream of escape. Both do not fit the mold of the women they are told they should aspire to be (thin, perfectly coifed, elegantly dressed, with no thoughts other than being good wives) and are instead awkward artistic women – Madeleine a painter and Margie a writer. Margie gets the opportunity to escort a wily cousin to Europe in 1924, but when the plan goes awry she chooses to stay in Paris against her parent’s consent and wishes. Margie finds a job and falls in love with the city and a painter and I fell in love with Paris all over again with her.
Reading through her grandmother’s notebooks, Madeleine becomes inspired by her story and decides that it isn’t worth crushing herself into the mold of the luncheon ladies and begins to imagine and create a different future for herself.
Given that yesterday I was at the Women’s March in Philadelphia, finishing the story felt particularly poignant. It reminded me of how far women have come and yet the continued need to be able to create our own stories and follow our own dreams.
The Light of Paris isn’t a terribly heavy book, but it was an enjoyable and quick read. A final note – if you enjoyed The Help, you will enjoy The Light of Paris.