Tag Archives: Paris

The Reader on the 6.27 – Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

Hi Everyone!

I hope you all had a great bank holiday Monday and are enjoying the last week of May. It’s been a bit changeable I think but at least the sun is streaming in now. Nevertheless, this has given me ample opportunity to read.

Today I want to share with you a book I read this morning: The Reader on the 6.27. It was a really lovely little read! I hope you enjoy it.

What’s it all about?

The novel focuses on Guylain Vignolles and his simplistic life. Every day he takes the the morning train, at 6.27 to his job as an engineer at the TERN company’s book pulling plant.

Every morning, he read aloud from a few damaged pages that he salvaged from the plant. Fellow commuters thoroughly enjoyed this routine and listened to the snippets they received. Once the commute ended and Guylain arrived at work, greeting the security guard and poet friend, Yvon Grimbert, his joyless day began.

‘For all those fellow commuters, he was the reader, the bizarre character who each weekday would read out, in a loud, clear voice, from the handful of pages he extracted from his briefcase.’

Under the watchful eye of the awful character Felix Kowalski, Guylain and his younger coworker Lycian Brunner ran “the Thing”, the Zerstor 500 industrial pulling machine.

This machine is the epitome of hideousness. It is presented as a monster. It even ate rats in addition to the truck loads of books that it daily slashed to bits. Guylain detested this machine for many reasons. He missed his coworker Giuseppe Carminetti, who had nearly been killed as the machine came on whilst he was cleaning it, munching away his two legs. At first, he was accused by TERN’s lawyers of gross negligence. Some time after, we was awarded 176,000 Euros in compensation after it was discovered that the Thing has faulty wiring.

The first mouthfuls were always tricky. The Zerstor was a temperamental ogress. She sometimes became congested, victim of her own greed. Then she would stall, in the midst of her chomping, her mouth full to bursting.

Following his recovery, Giuseppe set off on a mission of tracing down every copy of the book made with the batch of recycled paper in which his legs had been pulped into. Guylain decided to help him by contacting the author. As a result, he managed to get one hundred copies of the book which he gave to his friend periodically over time. Each time Guylain found a new copy, they would meet and have an elaborate Italian meal to celebrate. Afterwards, Guylain would return home to the apartment to see his only companion, a goldfish named Rouget de Lisle.

‘He was truly addicted to the golden creatures. Guylain could no longer cope without that silent, colourful presence gracing his bedside table. From experience, he knew that there was a vast difference between living alone and living alone with a goldfish.’

One morning following the celebratory meal, Guylain was approached on the platform by two elderly fans of his daily reading. Mesdemoiselles Monique and Josette Delacote. They managed to convince him if he would read at their home next Saturday. He reluctantly agreed, but agree he did. Upon arriving, he quickly realised that they lived in a nursing home, where a crowd of residents were waiting for his reading.

He read from the discarded pages he found and every extract he read was received positively, even one from an erotic novel. Guylain decided he would visit again next week to read further pages he found from the machine.

Guylain’s life was about to take another turn as the train was about to give him a gift, a mission of his own. Whilst pulling down his usual seat, he discovered a USB stick on the chair. It was bright red and calling to him. So, out of curiosity more than anything else, he picked it up and read the contents on there, hoping to find clues about its owner so he could return it.

‘When the train pulled into the station and the passengers alighted, an outside observer would have had no trouble noticing how Guylain’s listeners stood out from the rest of the commuters. Their faces did not wear that off-putting mask of indifference. They all had the contented look of an infant that has drunk its fill of milk.

The little stick contained a journal of a young woman called Julie. Guylain devoured the 72 entries she had written. She was funny, witty, charismatic. He learnt that she was a lavatory assistant in a shopping mall. She was a creature of habit, every morning of the spring equinox she counted the tiles: 14,717 just as the previous year. When he finally fell asleep, deep into the night, he felt that she had suddenly shone a light into his bleak world.

The following morning, Guylain decided to read the printed pages of Julie’s journal to his fellow passengers. The commuters enjoyed her having to hide her writing habit to snippets about her aunt and her habit of eating sugar puffs in the lavatory stall. Following this positive reception on the train, Guylain decides to read the journal again on Saturday at the nursing home.

Again he received a warm and positive review of his readings, so much so that he decided to invite Yvon to his next weekend there. As a result of Julie’s writing, Guylain began to feel a new hope rise up within him. It made him address certain fears – the fear of commitment following his father’s early death.

Each morning Guylain continued to read the journal on the train. In one entry, Julie describes her daily routine – breakfast with her friend Josy, the crowds that descend on the mall, especially in sale season and the horrible visitor every 10.am who sullied her pristine stalls.

“The 10a.m lard-arse didn’t put anything in it. Besides, he wasn’t in a state to put anything anywhere. But the sight of Josy and I were treated to as he attempted to go up my stairs with his shit-covered buttocks clenched will forever be one of the best tips I’ve ever received.”

When Guylain retold the story to Giuseppe about Julie, he decided to start a quest. He was going to find her! He showed Guylain a map of Paris with eight possible malls he had identified through clues in the journal. Guylain came alive at such hope and he too began searching for her.

He knew she was single (thankfully to him) and was having trouble meeting someone. She tried and failed at speed dating, returning home to the book that was waiting for her bed.

By that Saturday, Guylain had visited seven of the malls and was beginning to lose faith. He was cheered up by Yvon’s antics at the nursing home following another successful reading there. After finishing there he decided he would visit the final mall on the list provided by his friend. The world stopped and his face lit up as he finally found Julie.The final chapter of the novel is written as an entry in Julie’s journal. She tells of her amazement at the huge, glorious bunch of flowers she receives and her missing USB stick. In an attached letter, Guylain explained how he came across the stick and has fallen in love with her as he was reading. With immense affection, he asked if she would go out with him sometime. Julie paused, hesitated, but she thought about his words all afternoon. She decided she would call him the following morning and set up a date.

“This morning, the spring equinox, I hummed as I counted my tiles. Guylain Vignolles’s tile, tucked in the pocket of my overalls, knocked pleasantly against my hip… 14,718 was a really beautiful number on which to begin a love affair.

Final thoughts

This was a charming little read, chosen really by my love of books. It was so lovely to see a character transformed by a small event like finding something. A USB could be seen as something insignificant but to Guylain it changed his world. It’s setting in the heart of Paris also ticked a box for me. I just knew it would have a happy ending. I really loved the fact that for Giuseppe, books were literally his way of getting his life back. The metaphor surrounding his legs was a really clever touch.

This book was an easy read which left my heart full. Sometimes, I believe we just need a happy ending novel to distract us from our daily lives. Needless to say, this book has been added to the Left&Found pile ready for hiding.

Enjoy the rest of the week all!

Big love xx

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Picture Perfect Polaroids #9

April 15th 2019 – The day Notre Dame burnt before our very eyes.

It isn’t a lie to say I shed tears seeing the sights from Paris last night. Yet, whilst the cathedral was being engulfed with flames I had this deep feeling of hope. The media shared images of Parisians coming together to sing Ave Maria. Everyone is united. Therefore, it’s only fitting that my post today is filled with love for the Notre Dame.

Built in 1163. 200 years later it stands complete. It survived two world wars, revolutions and plagues. The morning after the night before shows the extent of the damage. There is always hope.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you France. Your loss is our loss. Your pain is out pain. Paris, je t’aime. 💖

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A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

  

Hey everyone! 

I’m so sorry I’ve vanished from the internet world for the past couple of weeks. I’ve been quite poorly with a throat infection, so it’s been a case of lots of broken sleep and liquids! But, I’ve recovered and I’m back to read through all my favourite blogs I’ve missed and post this review. I hope you can all forgive me and welcome me back with open arms. 

Today’s review: A Moveable Feast. A Movable Feast is a remarkable little book. I absolutely loved it. It was brought back into the headlines after the Paris terror attacks last November. The book, published in France as Paris est une fête (Paris Is A Celebration), struck a chord with the mood of defiance in the wake of the attacks. In all honesty, it was this that brought my attention to this book, and I’ve finally managed to read it. 


Overview:- 

This charming little book is a memoir by Hemmingway describing the years he spent in Paris with his wife, Hadley, and young son, Bumby, after World War 1. Each chapter provides a snapshot into Hemmingway’s life and experiences in Paris. During this period many artists and authors were living in Paris and Hemmingway writes about his encounters and friendships with Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love the way all these amazing people were in the same place at the same time. I only wish that I could have been apart of it. The people, the food, are all brought to life by Hemmingway’s narration. 

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” 

Now, as some of you may know, I love Paris and Fizgerald, so this was another gripping factor to this book for me. A large proportion of this book is taken to describe Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, more than any other person he meets. It was interesting to see how fellow Parisians viewed them and their relationship at this time. 

The book closes with the notion of change. He ends the book with his affair with a young woman, who he associates with the wave of ‘rich’ people entering Paris, and changing it for him forever. 

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” 


Summary:- 

The book opens with Hemmingway discussing bad weather and the different cafes in Paris where people go to escape the cold and where he goes to write. The weather wasn’t so delightful here when I started reading this, so in my mind I was in those little Parisian cafes, a part of all the action. Hemmingway is working as a journalist for a Canadian newspaper, trying to begin a career as a ‘straight’ writer of short stories. He describes losing himself within his own writing, as he works at the cafe tables, his only distraction a pretty girl or a boorish critic. 

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”

Hemmingway offers the reader character sketches of the artists and authors he met and came to know in Paris. I’ve mentioned a couple above, but what is interesting was his sometime fraught relationship with Gertrude Stein, his upmost respect for Ezra Pound. He describes the ultimate kindness of Sylvia Beach, the proprietor of Shakespeare and Company, a bookstore where many of the expatriate community congregate, including writers like James Joyce. 

“He liked the works of his friends, which is beautiful as loyalty but can be disastrous as judgement.” 

The vivid descriptions bring Paris to life as well as the characters that inhabit it, such as the waiters he befriends and the fisherman along the Seine River. He openly discusses his own career as he struggles to make enough money to care for himself and his family by writing short stories. Hemmingway talks openly about his own personal writing technique throughout this book. He describes himself as a quiet but quick tempered, somewhat impatient youth. Yet, his recollections are told from the viewpoint of a confident young man. 

“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.” 

Hemmingway’s first encounters with F. Scott Fizgerald are rather frustrating. Their relationship isn’t so great to begin with. However, he does later become a loyal friend and confidant. Hemmingway describes Fizgerald as a gifted but insecure writer. He describes Fizgerald’s drinking problem, and how it is made worse by his wife who was mentally ill. Zelda is dealt with critically because Hemmingway believed she only wanted to bring down Fitzgerald and destroy him. I only wish I knew what Fizgerlad thought about this. 

“Zelda was very beautiful and was tanned a lovely gold colour and her hair was a beautiful dark gold and she was very friendly. Her hawk’s eyes were clear and calm. I knew everything was all right and was going to turn out well in the end when she leaned forward and said to me, telling me her great secret, ‘Ernest, don’t you think Al Jolson is greater than Jesus?’

Nobody thought anything of it at the time. It was only Zelda’s secret that she shared with me, as a hawk might share something with a man. But hawks do not share. Scott did not write anything any more that was good until after he knew that she was insane.” 

The book closes with the pleasant reminiscence of spending winters with his wife, and sunshine in the Austrian mountains hiking and skiing as well as working on his writing. However, the pleasant, positive time ends when ‘the rich’ discover him as a promising young writer and thus invade his life. He then chooses to have an affair with one of these new wave ‘rich’ women, resulting in the end of his narration. 

“If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.”


Finally: 

If you love Paris and great figures in literature then this book is for you. It’s short and easy to read. It’s sheer joy from start to finish. The snapshot into Paris means you can imagine yourself there, a part of this moment in time. My only sadness is, I very much doubt these types of accounts are being written now by the great writers of our own generation. 

Big love xx

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The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

  
This was one of the books I received for my birthday, and I wanted to get started with it right away. The cover and title incorporates two of my great loves: Paris and books. I know we shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but I always do, and this cover doesn’t disappoint. It has a timeless and vintage feel about it, and of course looks very beautiful. 

Originally written and published in German in 2013, we are lucky enough now to have a translated version, by Simon Pare, published this summer. However, it doesn’t read like a translated book. In fact the translation needs to be praised. It reads beautifully, like a song. The prose is delicate yet incredibly moving. There are also some incredibly humorous parts in the novel. The description of the Seine brought all my own memories from my trip back, showing how realistic the description is. 

The novel centres on Monsieru Perdu. French translation = Mr Lost. This sums up the majority of the novel and Perdu himself. He is completely lost and in search of the resolution he desperately needs. 

However, in terms of his work, he is more than a book seller. He calls himself the literary apothecary. 

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”

His floating bookstore in a barge on the river Seine is where he describes books for the problems of daily life. He has a talent, and after speaking to visitors to his boat, Perdu mends the broken hearts and souls of his guests by prescribing books. He is pictured as refusing to sell a certain book to a lady, because she isn’t ready for it. This is when he meets Max Jordan, the famous writer of one novel, who has become blocked and seeks relief from his swarm of followers. 

“That customer didn’t need Night right now. She couldn’t have coped with it. The side effects are too severe.”

The twist in the tale, so to speak, is that Perdu is unable to heal himself through literature. His life is marred and haunted almost by his great love, Manon, who disappeared, only leaving in with a letter, that he has refused to open for 21 years. It lies hidden, within his very sparse flat. The description of his own living space actually made me feel incredibly sad. There is virtually nothing there. The characters who show the most life at this stage are his two cats, Kafka and Lindren. 

Catherine arrives on the scene, damaged herself from a relationship that went wrong. After meeting Catherine, who finds his letter, he is persuaded into opening it. He cannot believe what he has read, so he hauls anchor and leaves with Max, on a mission to the south of France. He has hopes of making peace with his loss, to find himself and who he really is, and to heal himself in order to discover the end of his own story. Max too, has high hopes of gathering material for his next novel. 

Whilst on their travels in the boat, they come across a number of interesting people and places. The description is just divine. I felt like I was on this journey with them. They have dealings with the police, spend some time with Anke, Ida and Corinna, meet some Brits when the boat ended up across the river and the wrong way round. Having little money, Perdu traded books for essentials that they needed. It seems to me, quite a delightful way of doing business. 

“Ahoy, you book paramedics. Doing some crazy cruising there!”

One of the most interesting characters they meet for me is Cuneo. He becomes the chef of the group. He creates the most stunning dishes that got my own mouth watering through the description. A lovely little touch at the end of the novel, is a selection of the recipes provided for us to recreate the magic at home. This really is a nice touch, and again for me, another love (baking/cooking). 

Their journey calmly continues, but is abruptly brought to shock as the men witness a woman swirling about in a raging storm in the sea. They haul her in and we learn she is called Samantha, she actively fell in on purpose and wanted to feel alive. For me, she is presented as being the female version of Perdu. Their interaction is significant within the novel – but I won’t reveal too much here! 

“I wanted to know what it felt like to jump into the river in this weather. The river looked so interesting, like soup gone wild. I wanted to know if I’d feel afraid in that soup or if my fear would tell me something important.”

A short while after Perdu decides he needs to find himself on his own. Max meets a girl, falls in love and eventually finds inspiration for writing in a new form. For Perdu he needs to follow his journey to find peace within himself. One thing he does realise is that he needs Catherine in his life, and thankfully she feels the same. 

“I don’t know if it’ll work out or if we can avoid hurting each other. Probably not, because we’re human. However, what I do know now, now that this moment I have craved has arrived, is that it’s easier to fall asleep with you in my life. And to wake up. And to love.”

The end of the journey circles back to his original love, Manon and her husband. They meet, and without revealing too much of the story, Perdu is healed and able to move onto a new relationship. Max has published a new story that is doing well and the novel ends tied up in a neat little bow, dusted with happiness.  

Whilst Perdu is essentially telling this story, there are also two other strands of narration via letters. There are the letters of Perdu and Catherine. As well as this, there is also the diary style of Manon. I appreciated that her chapters has titles and a different font. She is an interesting character and appears to show no mercy. However she acts for others, but this is not revealed until near the  close of the novel. 

“I came because you went.”

I really enjoyed this novel. It’s had to place it in a particular genre. There’s food, travel, healing, love, death, hurt and of course books. Some famous writers are also dropped within the narrative e.g. Orwell and Wilde. My only criticism is that there were a lot of characters, whom I really liked, but they were only fleeting. I wanted more time with them, but then the book would have been criticised for being incredibly long! The relationship between Max and Perdu I did like, they become close like father and son which is incredibly touching. 

As well as the recipes at the end, there is also ‘Jean Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy from Adams to Von Arnim’. Here there is a list of books, what they treat and a list of possible side effects. Again, I saw this as a lovely touch and another reason to make this novel stand out from the crowd. 

My only wish, and curiosity almost, is that I could visit and be recommended a book from the magic healer. Maybe in my dreams, or imagination? 

BL xx

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