The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Historical
The Light of Paris alternates between two stories: Madeleine’s story set in the southern U.S. in 1999 and her grandmother Margie’s story set primarily in Jazz-Age Paris. Each woman must figure out living the life that makes her happiest while balancing the expectations of their families and society.
It’s hard to write a real synopsis of this story without giving too much away, but basically it’s half women’s fiction and half historical fiction, with each chapter alternating between Madeleine and Margie. I really enjoyed reading this and am so glad I was able to get to it so quickly!
Madeleine is a mid-thirties reluctant housewife who robotically does what’s expected of her, even though it’s killing her on the inside. This isn’t the Madeleine we see most of the time, though, because when she’s away from her husband (who seems totally awful, by the way), she’s a completely different person. I think there’s something in Madeleine that we can all sympathize with and relate to.
Margie’s story is told through her diaries, but sort of. It’s kind of like Madeleine narrating her grandmother’s diaries, which was my least favorite part of the way this story was told. Personally, I would have preferred for Madeleine to keep to her own chapters and to have Margie’s personality shine through instead, especially since her story came from journals she wrote. I could have read a full book about Margie and wished I could have seen more of her.
I’m obsessed with all things Parisian, and I loved reading about Margie’s life in Paris, even if she wasn’t there for a long time. Someday, hopefully I’ll be able to spend months in Paris. I’m convinced that’s the only way you can really experience the city, and it seems like Margie would have agreed with me. In Madeleine’s words, Margie “had fallen hopelessly in love with Paris,” and I totally understand the feeling.
The characters throughout this book are interesting and real. I enjoyed seeing them change and seeing their relationships with and perceptions of each other evolve. I was especially happy to see Madeleine’s relationship with her mother shift to something more mature.
This book had two great stories and I really loved how they came together. I gave this book four stars because I loved the story, but I wished Margie’s story had gotten more time and that Madeleine hadn’t been interjected into Margie’s chapters.
*ARC from NetGalley