You know those times when you’re reading a book and think “I wish I had written this”? Well today I’m talking about a book that many of you will read and think that but which I read and thought “I COULD have written this!” in SO many parts. Laura Bradbury’s My Grape Paris is her fifth book in the “Grape” series chronicling her time in France (chronologically, it’s the second book in the series but can read as a standalone, though you’ll want to read them all anyway if you do!).
About the book:
My Grape Paris takes fans of Laura Bradbury’s Grape Series to the captivating world of Paris, where Laura has managed to organize an exchange year at the Sorbonne. Franck accompanies her, delighted to return to his native France. Over afternoons napping in an ancient Roman amphitheater and nights gallivanting around the Louvre, Laura dreams of becoming a sophisticated Parisian woman.
However, Laura soon discovers that living in Paris is much more complicated than the fantasy. Besides inappropriate relatives and spiteful teachers, there are also questions that become impossible to ignore. Will Franck stay in Paris after Laura’s stint at the Sorbonne is up? Is their Parisian year the final hurrah for their romance? Find out in My Grape Paris, as Laura confronts love and heartbreak in the city of lights.
So, what’s this I say about being able to have written this book? Well, SO many of Laura’s experiences parallel my own (from the minute I started reading My Grape Year, the first book in the series, and I saw her love for France started when she was a Rotary exchange student, just like me! While Laura spent a year in Burgundy (quelle chance!), I spent a year in Belgium when I was 17 (France was not an option at the time so I chose the next closest Francophone country!) and there were SO many parallels in our stories it was quite incredible. From her first day at school to her first “speech” at her Rotary club, I pretty much could have written this story. It was so much fun to read someone who has lived nearly the exact same experiences as you have!
My Grape Paris starts with Laura knocking on the door the building where her prof (she’s come to Paris to study Medieval French literature) lives and not understanding why she’s not getting an answer (it’s August, nothing happens in Paris in August but fresh off the plane, the eager Canadian doesn’t quite follow the “French way” yet!) and it brought back SO many memories of the time I upped and moved to Paris all by myself (ostensibly to complete my PhD in 18th century French literature) when all I had in terms of contacts for my studies was the address of the Sorbonne (so, like, no pressure there) and an office address in the 2nd arrondissement for the prof I wanted to study with (wasn’t a sure bet she would take me on but it’s all I had!). Laura standing in the street and wondering what was going on brought me back to 1995 and me standing in a street with a scrap of paper, thinking “What have I done?”.
Laura’s experience living with her French-born boyfriend in Paris (initially for a year as part of her Canadian university studies) brought back many memories for me; though I had moved to Paris on my own, so many of her experiences were so very similar to mine as she figured out the French administration and bureaucracy and the French “way” and generally fell more and more in love with Paris, despite how difficult it sometimes is to live there.
My Grape Paris is a thoroughly enjoyable roller-coaster of a read – you’ll discover life in Paris right alongside Laura and Frank as the negotiate living in the City of Light on a tight budget (taking big financial risks to secure a tiny “dream” apartment), balancing life (study for Laura and finding a job for Frank) with making the most of the city surrounding them. From secret dance clubs where they drink mojitos and dance until dawn, spectacular surroundings to study in, hidden libraries to the “everyday” bistros that quickly become “their restaurants”, this is a tale of two people finding their way in life in one of the most romantic cities in the world.
I loved Laura’s honesty in this book – she certainly doesn’t sugar-coat the whole “life in Paris” aspect nor does she pretend that moving to another country to follow your heart (I’ve done that too!) is a walk in the park. As well as negotiating life in France, Laura is negotiating life with Frank which, when you’re 21 and living far away from home, is certainly not always easy. If you love memoirs about life in France and are a romantic at heart, this book (and in fact, the whole series) should be at the top of your summer reading list!
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Disclosure: I reveived an e-copy of My Grape Paris from the author for review purposes (and I purchased the other “Grape” books myself). I have not received compensation for writing about the book. All opinions 100% my own.