In Paris with You was a unique book for me, despite its somewhat formulaic romance plot (which isn’t a bad thing!). Why?
- It’s translated from the original French, which means that the takes on the characters are different than you might get in a book originally in English. Specifically, Eugene is allowed to be slightly depressed, and that’s totally normal.
- The hero is named Eugene.
- It’s a book-length poem. I read poetry infrequently enough that the language that the authors uses is different enough, more emotional and less action-oriented, that it was refreshing.
- It’s got a lovely happy-for-now ending that leaves open a proper happy ending.
In Paris with You was a great Sunday afternoon read. Would recommend.
The Chatelet Apprentice is a fine first mystery novel, doing a good job of introducing the characters, setting the scene of mid-1700s Paris (Paris is important because it puts our detective into glancing contact with King Louis XV), and generally easing you into a new mystery series.
That said, I had a terribly hard time getting into this book. It was a slow read the whole way through, and while it wasn’t bad, it was maybe more laid back than I wanted? I don’t know. It is translated from the French, and so, since it was written for the French market, maybe moves at a different pace? Or maybe I’m just not used to reading cozy mysteries and as a result am not used to them anymore.
Regardless, if you’re looking for a new mystery series or fiction books about historical France, try out The Chatelet Apprentice.
What’s it about?
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is about its three main characters: Renee, the concierge of an apartment building in Paris; Paloma, the super-smart 12-year-old who is already tired of life; and Ozu, the new Japanese tenant. Renee is also an autodidact who hides her intelligence, afraid that everyone else will discover her; Paloma is frustrated by her family; and Ozu is the magical person who brings out the best in both of them.
Why should you read it?
I should state up front that the Elegance of the Hedgehog is French. It takes place in Paris, it is largely about death and philosophy, and has a very particular voice. It was for me, but it is not for everyone.
I found it to be a beautiful character sketch with all kinds of philosophical asides about art and death. (Did I mention it has a very French outlook?) Do I agree with its ideas about Death and Beauty and Art? I do agree that we are, in the end, all worm food, and I also agree with the idea that there are people who are more authentically elegant than others. The author seems in particular to damn people who want cultural power without appreciating the culture. Like the people who raise money for causes because it means they get to dress up and go to the party where they are seen and see others; not because they care for the cause. She holds a lot of contempt for those folks. They still do good things, of course, but for suspicious motives.
I enjoyed it, particularly because I had been reading a book I didn’t much care for right before it. This one made my world better.