Two reviews and a trip to Paris

July saw us take a weekend break in Paris, so with this in mind I had tried to find some suitable reading before our trip. The first book that sprang to mind was Ernest  Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”. I really enjoyed Naomi Wood’s book featuring the lives of his wives and there had been a few references in that to his time in Paris. A Moveable Feast is a memoir (of sorts) of Hemingway’s time in Paris in the 1920’s. This was a period when authors and artists such as Gertrude Stein, F Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and of course Hemingway, migrated to Paris. The book is lots of short stories which paint brief sketches of Hemingway’s time there and his relationship with some of the other notable names that were part of his circle, as well as some about his life with Hadley, his first wife.

Shakespeare & Co - current location

Shakespeare & Co – current location

 The book is certainly an easy read and evokes the time and the place. The stories varied in length and some were more, well, straightforward, than others. Let’s just say that a few of the stories are extremely odd.

You can Google for some renowned quotes from the book but the line that I will take away is, speaking of Ralph Cheever Dunning, “For a poet he threw a very accurate milk bottle.”

The book was put together after Hemingway’s death by his last wife and it was based on a manuscript that he had been working on.  I’m sure that there is a great deal to interest scholars in the book and the version I have makes much of the fact that it includes some unfinished sketches which weren’t previously published.  All of which leaves me with the niggling feeling that what I’ve been presented with as Hemingway’s work isn’t necessarily something that he thought was ready for publication. There are some quotes at the end which are described as fragments of handwritten drafts and these show the different spin on just a few short sections that Hemingway was both writing and discarding.

We didn’t manage to see very much of the Paris Hemingway talks about but we did squeeze in a visit to the current incarnation of the Shakespeare and Company bookshop.

My other Paris-related read was a new title – The Lying Down Room by Anna Jaquiery, published in April this year. This is the debut novel by Jaquiery, a journalist of French-Malaysian descent. The book has a contemporary Parisian setting, with a backstory set in Russia. The book introduces us to Chief Inspector Serge Morel, who reminded me of both Commandant Camille Verhœven (from the Pierre Lemaitre books) and Camilleri’s Montalbano.

The mystery concerns an elderly woman who is discovered dead in her bed, which on the face of it is not particularly mysterious, however she has been carefully dressed and made-up. The police are keen to interview a man and a mute boy who have been approaching other elderly women, and for a long time this is their only lead. While progress is slow the sad and dark backstory provides some tantalising clues that may lead to an explanation of the murder, and a story which draws Morel and his team out of Paris and into the French countryside.

This is one of those murder mysteries where the characters are as important as the plot and Morel certainly delivers what you would expect of a detective – he has a troubled personal life (an obsession with an old flame), concerns about his father’s health, and an unusual release for his stress in origami. He is paired with an intelligent and feisty young female detective, Lila, who acts as a good foil.

The book provided some of the flavour of Paris that I was looking for, as well a being a thoughtful crime novel. Morel is definitely a detective that I want to read more about (how fortunate that this is the first of a series!). Thank you to the publisher for a review copy.

Tour Eiffel

Tour Eiffel

So Paris – how was that? The first word that springs to mind is hot! It was well above he average for the time of year and as we only had a few days we needed to crack on and fit a lot in – no time for lounging about in the shade! We managed to see many of the sights, walked around 8 – 10 miles each day and had a mixed experience of the food and drink. Surprisingly I did manage to miss out on one item on my ‘To Do’ list – I didn’t have a glass of champagne! I guess I need to go back…

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