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Paris Was The Place

by

Susan CONLEY

354 pages

Release date: August 7, 2013
from Knopf/Random House

Paris Was The PlaceISBN: 978-0-307-59407-5

Purchase

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

     Books on FranceNew Authors 2013

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

rating systemImmigration is a hot topic in France, and yet there are not many novels set against that background. Paris was The Place focuses on this issue in the 1980s, as we follow a group of young girls in an immigrant center. They are waiting for their trial: they will either receive French asylum or be sent back to their country of origin.
The book is also full to the brim with great details about the city, as the heroin walks the streets or takes le métro.
Part of the book is set in India, and again, I enjoyed the details about the country and its culture.

Willie, a young California woman in her 30s, comes to Paris. She is officially a poetry teacher, but she ends up with this job: helping the immigrant teenagers of the center tell their story in such a true and moving way that the judge will agree to let them remain in France.
The problem is, Willie has been through lots of emotional hardships, not easy relationships with her parents, her mother died a couple of years ago, and she is very attached to her brother Luke. So she is not really emotionally mature, and she ends up being too moved by the stories and destinies of these girls, who could go back to horrible situations in their country. So one day, when one of them,  Gita, 15,  asks her to help her in a very special way… Well, you will have to read to see how complicated it turns out.

There are lots of different layers in this book. Apart form this main plot, Willie falls in love with Macon, one of the center judges. And it is not a clear and easy relationship either.
Then her dear brother Luke falls very seriously ill.
Willie keeps up with her interest in poetry, and she manages to travel to India to meet a famous Indian poetess’s daughter she researches about.

I liked the descriptions of Willie, Luke, and Macon, and of what they were each going through. It sounded very realistic to me. I particularly liked the presentation of the girls at the detention center, Gita and the others, with their amazing stories. I knew nothing was rosy for them in Paris, but I ignored the details of life in that type of center. Quite eye opening!
i found the dialogues very realistic and ringing true.

I felt sometimes there were too many things going on at the same time; and yet, isn’t it how life goes? All the different plot lines do converge to the issue of belonging, whether it be at the level of one’s relation with a lover, a brother, a friend, a country, or a passion for poetry. And when you go through all these, what happens to you, how you get transformed, how you may get hurt or actually mature.

So I would highly recommend it to readers interested in family fiction, or who want to see more closely what happens to immigrant candidates in a country like France. Beware that your romantic idea of France and Paris may get a bit damaged in the process, but really, Paris is so much more than just the city of lights.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

With her new novel, Paris Was the Place (Knopf, 2013), Susan Conley offers a beautiful meditation on how much it matters to belong: to a family, to a country, to any one place, and how this belonging can mean the difference in our survival. Novelist Richard Russo calls Paris Was the Place, “by turns achingly beautiful and brutally unjust, as vividly rendered as its characters, whose joys and struggles we embrace as our own.”

When Willie Pears begins teaching at a center for immigrant girls in Paris all hoping for French asylum, the lines between teaching and mothering quickly begin to blur. Willie has fled to Paris to create a new family, and she soon falls for Macon, a passionate French lawyer. Gita, a young girl at the detention center, becomes determined to escape her circumstances, no matter the cost. And just as Willie is faced with a decision that could have dire consequences for Macon and the future of the center, her brother is taken with a serious, as-yet-unnamed illness. The writer Ayelet Waldman calls Paris Was the Place “a gorgeous love story and a wise, intimate journal of dislocation that examines how far we’ll go for the people we love most.” Named on the Indie Next List for August 2013 and on the Slate Summer Reading List, this is a story that reaffirms the ties that bind us to one another. [provided by the author]

READ AN EXCERPT

WATCH A FASCINATING TED TALK
BY THE AUTHOR ON STORY TELLING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan Conley2Susan Conley is a writer and teacher. Her memoir, The Foremost Good Fortune (Knopf 2011), chronicles her family’s experiences in modern China as well as her journey through breast cancer. The Oprah Magazine listed it as a Top Ten Pick, Slate Magazine chose it as “Book of the Week,” and The Washington Post called it “a beautiful book about China and cancer and how to be an authentic, courageous human being.” Excerpts from the memoir have been published in The New York Times Magazine and The Daily Beast.

 Susan’s writing has also appeared in The Paris Review, The Harvard Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Gettysburg Review, The North American Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. A native of Maine, she earned her B.A. from Middlebury College and her M.F.A. in creative writing from San Diego State University. After teaching poetry and literature at Emerson College in Boston, Susan returned to Portland, where she cofounded and served as executive director of The Telling Room, a nonprofit creative writing center. She currently teaches at The Telling Room and at the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA Program.

Contact Information: www.SusanConley.com  |  Facebook | Twitter

COME BACK ON NOVEMBER 2
FOR MY INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN CONLEY!

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Paris Was The Place BannerIn full compliance with FTC Guidelines, I received this ebook for free from  the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.

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