Ah… Paris. Sadly I haven’t managed a trip there in over a year but I’m doing my best to live vicariously though alternative guide books. “Alternative” guide books? Yep. As someone who knows the city very well, it’s rare that I’ll prepare for a visit by reading a traditional guide book but I am always intrigued by those books which offer a different perspective on my beloved City of Light. In her latest book, A Paris Year: My Day to Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World, Janice MacLeod has done exactly that.
From the author of the New York Times bestseller, Paris Letters, A Paris Year is just as much a delight for those who’ve visited the city many times before as it is for first time visitors. Most definitely not a guide book, this is a journal but with (beautiful) illustrations and photographs to go along with MacLeod’s musings. A replication of her original notebooks from the time she first spent in Paris, MacLeod declares this is
a memoir, guidebook, and ode to ma belle Paris.
Part memoir and part visual journey through the streets of modern-day Paris, France, A Paris Year chronicles, day by day, one woman’s French sojourn in the world’s most beautiful city. Beginning on her first day in Paris, Janice MacLeod, the author of the best-selling book, Paris Letters, began a journal recording in illustrations and words, nearly every sight, smell, taste, and thought she experienced in the City of Light. The end result is more than a diary: it’s a detailed and colorful love letter to one of the most romantic and historically rich cities on earth. Combining personal observations and anecdotes with stories and facts about famous figures in Parisian history, this visual tale of discovery, through the eyes of an artist, is sure to delight, inspire, and charm.
I’ve met Janice (her enthusiasm and passion for Paris is infectious) and was a huge fan of her first book so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one. In fact, the book arrived one day after I left for France this summer so, being the impatient creature I am, I bought it on Kindle to read on my travels. Knowing Janice and having seen some sneak peeks of the book on social media, I was surprised by the Kindle version – it looks completely different to the hardback version so if you want the full “journal” experience, definitely buy the physical copy of the book.
The book itself is beautiful and it really does resemble a journal – kind of like the one you might have kept on your first trip to Europe, you know, the ones you stuck ticket stubs, wine and beer labels and Polaroid images inside to preserve your trip memories forever. Janice has interspersed her fabulous drawings with (her own) photographs to go along with the short texts that appear for nearly every day of the year. What I really love about the book is that as well as being beautiful, it manages to be homey and relateable at the same time (i.e. totally look like it could be your journal, only more lovely!). The fact that the photos are Janice’s is a lovely touch; they could so easily have used a professional photographer’s but these images are SO “Janice”. She has a remarkable eye and notices details – colours, patterns, people, habits and behaviours – which she describes in the accompanying text. Janice’s voice is friendly and quirky (see: details she notices), and her curiosity translates well to the written word.
One thing I had been expecting before I read the book was that each day feature its own distinct story but some stories are spread over a number of different days which makes it a little bit less like reading a journal. But the more you read it, the more you get used to it (it’s kind of like sitting with Janice at a café every day and listening to her inner thoughts as she writes…) and the end effect is as if you’ve spent the better part of a morning or afternoon with Janice over the course of a year. It’s like a little peek into her Paris life so, if you can’t get to the City of Light anytime soon, this is a lovely alternative.
If you’re interested in French food, history, culture or architecture, there’s a little something here for you. If you’re the type of person who likes to sit in a café and people watch, Janice has you covered. If you simply like to look at pretty pictures and photographs to fuel your wanderlust, this book will appeal to you as well. It’s most definitely an excellent alternative to travelling to Paris (and a lot more affordable!).
Buy “A Paris Year” for yourself!
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Disclosure: I received a review copy of A Paris Year from the publisher for review purposes. I did not receive any further compensation for writing about this and opinions are, as always, 100% my own.
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