Tag Archives: Paris

Review: The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel

Today I welcome France Book Tours back to the blog with an intriguing literary novel from New Vessel Press.  This novel was originally written and published in French and this English translation has been done by Alison Anderson. Scroll down to the end of the review to enter to win your own copy and to look at all of the stops on the book tour.

My Review:
641 to ParisCécile is a stylish and confident forty-seven year old entrepreneur who owns a successful cosmetics company, has been married for twenty years and has a teenage daughter.  When the book opens, she has just visited her elderly parents for the weekend and is about to take the 6:41 a.m. train back to her home in Paris.  As her parents age, her weekend visits to their home are becoming harder for her and more depressing.  The only thing that Cécile wants to do on the train is to relax and have a few hours of peace and quiet.  But when she realizes who sits down next to her on the train, her commute back home is anything but restful.

Philippe Leduc is also forty-seven but time has not been as kind to his physique as it has to Cécile.  Philippe is divorced and his teenage children pretty much want nothing to do with him and he has a monotonous job selling televisions in a big box chain store.  He is also on the 6:41 a.m. train to Paris but for a very different reason than Cécile.  Philippe’s childhood friend is dying of cancer and Philippe is on his way to the hospital in Paris to say his final goodbyes.  Philippe also assumes that his train ride will be quiet, until he realize that the only seat left on the train is the one next to his ex-girlfriend, Cécile.

Philippe and Cécile had a four month relationship when they were in their early twenties.  They were both very different people at the time: Philippe was the most popular boy in school, handsome, and very popular; Cécile was plain looking, shy and did not have many friends.  They immediately recognize one another on the train, but neither one of them has the courage to speak up and acknowledge one other’s presence.  They each sit in silence and contemplate the disaster that was their short-lived romantic relationship that ended more than twenty years ago.

While they were dating, the relationship, for the most part, seemed fine but Cécile always had the feeling that Philippe was better than her and that he would inevitably dump her for someone better.  They go on a trip to London together which ends up being an awful memory for both of them because it is on this very trip that Philippe decides to end the relationship in the worst possible way.  What is interesting about the end of their affair is the effect it has on each of them.  Cécile decides she will never again be made to feel inferior and will not be treated so badly by anyone.  Philippe, on the other hand, knows that he has behaved in a very mean and churlish way towards Cécile and this eats away as his pride and confidence.  He is never able to recover from the guilt of this bad breakup and never has a successful relationship after his time with Cécile.

The ending to this book is very interesting as the author builds up to the conclusion.  We are left wondering if Cécile and Philippe will ever speak with each other; and if they do have a conversation will it be amicable?  New Vessel Press has provided us with another entertaining translation of a charming French book.

About The Author/Translator:

Jean-Philippe Blondel was born in 1964 in Troyes, France where he lives as an author and English teacher.  His novel The 6:41 to Paris has been a bestseller in both France and Germany.

Alison Anderson is a novelist and translator of literature from French. Among the authors she has translated are JMG Le Clézio, Christian Bobin, Muriel Barbery and Amélie Nothomb. She has lived in Northern California and currently lives in a village in Switzerland.

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You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below. This giveaway is open to US residents only. Five participants will each win an ARC print copy of this book.

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Filed under France, Literature in Translation

Review: The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

I received an advanced review copy of this title from Gallic Books.  It has been translated from the French by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce.

My Review:
The Red NotebookIf you found a purse in the street with no identification in it what would you do with it?  Would you take it to the police? Would you throw it away?  When Laurent finds an expensive woman’s purse in the street that contains no wallet, all of these questions run through his mind.  He finally decides to take the purse to his apartment and see if he can find any information about its owner.  His decision to not throw the purse away and try to find it’s rightful owner says quite a bit about Laurent as an honest and sentimental character.

What Laurent does find inside the purse are very intimate details about a stranger’s life.  This unknown woman has placed pictures, a keychain with hieroglyphic script, and special rocks in her satchel.  Most importantly Laurent finds a red notebook in which this woman was recording her most private thoughts.  Laurent decides he must find this woman because he feels that, through his perusal of her mementos, he has gotten to know her and has developed a fondness for her.

The purse belongs to Laure who, at the very beginning of the story, has been hit on the head and mugged.  The thief takes her purse, removes everything of value from it and dumps it on the street in Paris.  Due to the trauma to her head Laure spends two weeks in the hospital in a coma.  When she wakes up and remembers the theft of her purse, it is the loss of her personal items that bothers her the most.

The book is suspenseful because we never know if Laurent can manage to put enough clues together to find Laure.  It is actually his teenage daughter, who at first appears to be a selfish little brat, that helps her father find Laure.  We know from the details given throughout the novel that Laurent and Laure are lonely and have been for quite some time.  They both also have a love of books.  So if they do manage to find each other they are obviously a perfect match.

THE RED NOTEBOOK is uplifting, heart-warming with the just the right amount of drama. I recommend it as the perfect novel to enjoy while you are sitting outside on a sunny spring day.

About The Author:
antoine_laurain150x200Antoine Laurain was born in Paris and is a journalist, antiques collector and the author of five novels. The President’s Hat, a charming fable set in the Mitterrand years, was awarded the Prix Landerneau Découvertes and the Prix Relay in 2012 and is published in English by Gallic. It was a Waterstones Book Club book and ABA Indies Introduce pick in 2013. Antoine was chosen to represent France at European Literature Night 2014.


Filed under France, Literature in Translation

Review: Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano

I received an advanced review copy of this book from Yale University Press through NetGalley. This book is the compilation of three French novellas that have been translated into English by Mark Polizzotti.

My Review:

Suspended SentencesI love to review short stories as well as longer works of fiction.  These three stories by Patrick Modiano occupy the space somewhere between a short story and a full length work of fiction.  This collection of stories, or novellas, are all set in Paris in the mid-twentieth century.  They are all told from a first person point of view and are a bit rambling, almost as if they were the diaries or personal memoirs of the narrator in each story.  The narratives jump from place to place and back and forth between different periods of time.  It can be hard to keep track of where the author is trying to lead us.  The tone of these tales are also very brooding, sad and even melancholy.

In the first novella, “Afterimage,” a woman meets a famous photographer while she is at a café in Paris.  The photographer, whose name is Jansen, is an eccentric genius who eventually withdraws from the rest of the world.  The narrator has volunteered to catalog his vast array of photographs which lay in old trunks in his studio.  Jansen calls her “scribe” and she observes the odd habits of the artist until one day he completely drops out of sight, never to be heard from again.  As the woman gets older and her own life seems unfulfilled, she begins to understand Jansen’s choice of disappearing.

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Filed under Literature/Fiction, Novella

Review and Giveaway: I Looked For the One My Heart Loved by Dominique Marny

Book Synopsis:
I Looked For The One - coverAnne and Alexis are separated by war as children and reunited later by destiny. A powerful and dramatic love story that spans decades in spite of its seeming impossibility.

Anne, 9, and Alexis, 11, grow up together in the Montmartre area of Paris. While she has a major crush on him, he merely sees her as his friend’s little sister. After WWII begins, the two are separated as their families flee Paris to avoid the German occupation. When they say goodbye, Alexis promises to always protect Anne.

Anne holds on to this promise for years as she constantly thinks of Alexis, wondering where he may be. Anne grows up, finds works in an art gallery, and marries a kind, devoted man with whom she has two children. But her heart still belongs to Alexis and she never stops looking for him. Their paths cross fatefully one day in Brussels many years after they were separated.

Alexis, living in Canada and soon to be moving to San Francisco, has a family of his own; a wife in constant depression and a son. Despite their responsibilities to family and the geographical distance that keeps them apart, Anne and Alexis find a way to love one another, secretly yet passionately.

But after all this time, will they ever manage to be truly together, completely? [provided by the publisher]

My Review:

This was a lovely book that spans forty years of life in Paris beginning in 1939.  When World War II begins, neighborhoods of families and friends are scattered throughout France.  The main character in the book, Anne, and her family flee to the countryside to live with her grandparents until the turmoil of German occupation settles down.  Anne who, at the time is 9 years old, is very upset to leave her brother’s friend Alexis on whom she has a childhood crush.

At first I thought that Anne’s fondness for Alexis, which she thinks back on throughout her adult life, was unrealistic.  How many of us carry a torch for someone whom they met as a child?  However,  the circumstances surrounding the chaos and destruction of World War II leave an impression on Anne.  Her thoughts of Alexis appear to be more than just a childhood crush; she looks back on the time she spent with him as one of peace and happiness before the war ushered in a period sadness, destruction and change.

Anne seems to be fond of her husband Francois, but he never is the great love of her life.  He is comfortable and takes care her and they have two wonderful children.  They never have anything in common beyond their family.  So when Anne meets Alexis again later in life, she is easily tempted to have an affair with him because of their immediate connection.  They share a past and memories of their old neighborhood of Montmartre and they both have a deep love and appreciation for art.

The author keeps us wondering until the end of the story if Anne and Alexis will ever be able to break free of their unhappy marriages and be together.  I LOOKED FOR THE ONE MY HEART LOVED is a great read for those who appreciate historical fiction set in Paris.

About the Author:
I Looked For The One - MarnyDominique Marny was raised in a family that loves art, literature, adventure and travels. In addition to being a novelist, she is a playwright, screenwriter, and writes for various magazines.  Watch the video below in which Dominique talks about her book and how Paris inspired its setting. 



The publisher is giving away one paperback copy to someone in the U.S. and one e-book to all other International entries. The giveaway is open until 9/14. Click on the link below to enter:


Thanks so much to France Book Tours for hosting another great tour. Please click on the banner below to see all of the stops on this tour and to view other ongoing tours:
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Filed under Giveaways, Historical Fiction