A Paris All Your Own. Edited by Eleanor Brown. Putnam.
I tried to return it, and when she wouldn’t take it, I told her to leave it inside the nearby museum where someone could claim it. She refused, and frustrated, we told her we would leave it in the museum for her. As we walked toward the building, the woman demanded money.
Rachel Hore, author of “A Week in Paris” ran into the same scam, but she was more astute than I. She turned the incident into a short story as well as an essay in “A Paris All Your Own.”
The book, edited by Denver author Eleanor Brown, is a collection of reminiscences about Paris, written by 18 female novelists who have set books in the city. These women are the authors of best-selling mysteries, romances, chick lit and mainstream novels.
Their experiences are varied. Some went to Paris as students searching for romance, adventure or the meaning of life. They all expected Paris to be a watershed event, and several were disappointed. Michelle Gable, author of two Paris books, admits she had an awful time when she and her family visited and was glad to leave it behind in favor of going to London.
Julie Powell, whose best-known book is “Julie & Julia,” went to Paris the first time as a nanny with two impossible children. She mostly remembers watching MTV Europe. Others were seasoned writers the first time they saw Paris and came on research trips or were looking for inspiration.
Like all books of essays, the quality of the writing is varied, too. A couple of the pieces read like “what I did on my summer vacation.” There are travel tips and tales of faux pas made because of high school French. Almost all mention viewing the Eiffel Tower, watching French men smoking Gauloises and admiring French women who have a way with scarves. Dog poop was another unifying theme.
Among the best of the essays is editor Eleanor Brown’s “Failing in Paris.”