Paris by the Book

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

A love affair with Paris. A bookstore. Two children's classics. A family. A mystery of a disappearing husband. Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan sounds perfect for me. Unfortunately, upon reading, the book feels like a missed opportunity and leaves me wanting more. I find myself rereading the two children's classics - two books with very different depictions and interpretations of the city of Paris – that form the theme in this book. 

Read my complete review at 

Reviewed for NetGalley
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Paris By The Book is a literary novel by Liam Callanan. Released 3rd April, 2018 by Penguin Books - Dutton imprint, it's 368 pages and available in ebook, hardback, paperback and audiobook formats.

My first impressions were favorable honestly.  The author has a very lyrical voice.  The book is well crafted and the dialogue is smooth and never clunky.  My problems with this book were that it unsettled me that I never quite figured out what the author's purpose was in presenting it.  There were mystery elements, a few humorous ones, straight literary narrative... but nothing that really allowed me to become comfortable with the plot or understand what was really happening.  For a long while I thought it was going to be an unreliable narrator type thing where she was hallucinating or that Robert had actually died and she was just not coping (that would've been interesting, but possibly more difficult to write).  I didn't understand the motivations of pretty much any of the characters throughout the book.  They felt like marionettes, sort of inserted into the scenery and jerked around by some VERY capricious offstage presence.

The actual story arc was full of unbelievable coincidences which just piled on top of one another from the very beginning.  My suspension of disbelief was completely and irretrievably shattered by about page 12.

At the end of the day, the fact that someone (Robert) who professes to love and cherish their family (Leah + 2 daughters) could absolutely upend their lives with the worst imaginable trauma and keep doing it beyond the first time is unforgivable.  It doesn't matter whether or not they cope or grow or progress or anything, he's a colossal jerk of biblical proportions.

It would be a stretch to say I hated this book.  I certainly didn't enjoy it.

It -is- well crafted and well written (which added another star to my personal evaluation). In fact, the author is talented enough that I would like to read more of his work.

Two and a half stars.
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Paris the Book tells the story of Leah and her two daughters who travel to Paris after finding plane tickets purchased by their missing husband and father, Robert. Leah has dreamed of visiting Paris and takes the opportunity to visit and hopefully find information on her missing husband. 

I absolutely love books set in Paris. Paris has hovered at #2-3 on my "Must Visit" list for a very long time. The way Liam Callanan depicts Paris is absolutely breathtaking. Told in part by Leah, a fellow American like myself, I could almost feel myself visiting the same places.

Unfortunately for me that was all Leah and I had in common. I found it hard to connect both with Leah and her husband Robert so I struggled to get through the book at times. The Leah introduced in the prologue of the book is a very different woman that we meet in the rest of the novel. The novel in general had a tendency to drag in certain moments, especially the first half. 

I also found the ending very unsatisfying. I won't spoil the ending, but I was left with many, many unanswered questions.
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At some point in our lives, we have watched a show, attended a concert or read a book and ultimately said, "we'' there's an evening that I won't get back."
Expectation was high, but the reality of the experience was not even close. Disappointment, some feeling of disbelief, and a little anger of time wasted are the initial feelings. I will usually try and rationalize and reason it out and think about what maybe I missed or what the creators goal was but sometimes you have to accept reality that it wasn't that good.
I wish I could've walked away from Liam Callanan's book, Paris by the Book, but no matter how long, slow and boring the might be, I will prevail to the end. Part is a hope that the tide will turn as I flip the next page and suddenly the book will be the one that I lose sleep over staying up late to finish with that "Oh or Aha" moment.
Unfortunately Callanan's book never gained momentum and was a long hard journey to the finish line.
The fictional story of writer, husband, father, Robert Eady, whose disappearance leads his wife, Leah, and their children, Ellie and Daphne, on a search to find him.
Sounds like the makings of a good book as the family uproots their lives in Wisconsin to the city of lights, Paris, France in hopes of finding him. 
Unfortunately, Paris, a mystery and even a beautiful red bookstore couldn't bring this story to life. There is a lack of continuity in regards to the overall plot along with weak and unlikable characters.
Ultimately I found myself disinterested in the characters and the story. I loved the cover of this book with its bright red cover but as the saying goes, "don't judge a book by it's cover."
I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley. #netgalley #ParisbytheBook
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Leah met Robert when he saw her shoplifting “The Red Balloon”, chased her down, only to reveal he not only paid for the book she stole, he also bought her another, “Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans. So begins the great romance that led them from Paris, Wisconsin, to Paris, France, though not together. She dreamed of Paris, but they didn’t have the money so he took her to Paris, WI, and proposed, promising someday. But marriage and children and work and his faltering career as a writer kept postponing someday.

Leah was all for Albert Lamorisse and “The Red Balloon” but then she wanted to be a filmmaker and Robert was all in for Bemelmans, but both of them were fascinated by Paris. They raised their two daughters to love both stories and they were a mostly happy family. Sometimes Robert would take off for a writeaway–a break to get some serious writing done by holing up somewhere without distraction. But then he leaves without a note promising his return and does not come back in a few days or even in a week, or ever.

Leah discovers he bought tickets to Paris for the whole family, including himself, so they go. She can’t help hoping he will be there at the airport but no luck. While they are there, they learn he entered a story into a contest and won a small prize. They print out the story outline and it sounds like it’s about them, a family moving to Paris to open a bookstore, so they follow the story, find a bookstore, and try to fulfill the story. Unspoken but always in their minds, the hope that he will find them persists.

I love stories set in  Paris and I adore stories with bookstores, so Paris by the Book didn’t just speak to me, it stood up, jumped up and down, waved its arms, and yelled at me from across the room, “This book is for you!”  Then I read it. So much of it did speak to me. I love the writing about the books, the city, the bookstore and geographical shelving. I really loved the geographical shelving and it’s worth reading just for that alone.

On the other hand, Leah and Robert were a problem. I am completely unable to understand Robert at all. I know it “takes all kinds” but he seems unnatural. I also think Leah was so very wrong not to talk it out with her children when she had information one way or another, or even to discuss her doubts and fears. They were teens, old enough to deserve an open conversation about what is true, false, and real about their father’s disappearance or death. Here’s the thing, you just know someday, perhaps in five years, or ten, or twenty, they will learn the truth and lose faith in their mother, their only remaining parent.

I received an e-galley of Paris by the Book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Paris by the Book at Penguin Group Dutton | Penguin Random House
Liam Callanan
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Though I liked the book, I made the decision when I finished not to review it on my site because it didn't fit into my editorial schedule. I may include it in a review post or possibly a book list post in the future.
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The reason I agreed to review Paris by the Book by Liam Callahan were myriad.  I like mysteries and this book was one.  I like books about books and those who are passionate about reading them, writing them, and promoting them to others.  And the setting of the novel didn’t hurt—Paris.  I also was intrigued by what the author of the book said:

“My novel is about dreams. Paris dreams, life dreams, family dreams, and what happens when those dreams conflict with reality….What role do dreams play in a marriage? What if they change? And what if someone—a spouse—or somewhere—a city—you thought you knew well turns out to be utterly different?”

The novel is crafted around a mother named Leah and her daughters Ellie and Daphne.  Leah is from Wisconsin but has wished for her entire life to visit Paris.  She loves the literature, but also, she has always wanted to make films and the film The Red Balloon is a particular favorite of hers.  Leah’s husband, Robert, always loved Paris too.  In flashbacks—because he disappears one day—we discover that he dreams of writing, and that he has been allowed to pursue that dream.  One day long after his mysterious disappearance, Leah makes a chance discovery of some plane tickets that Robert purchased for the family before his mysterious disappearance.  These tickets bring Leah and the girls to Paris, a place Leah has dreamed of being all her life. In Paris, another chance event causes her to decide to stay in Paris and buy a bookstore, where she and her daughters go about reconstructing their lives, which have been disrupted by Robert’s absence.  They search for Robert there and wonder if they have glimpsed him or if it is only their imagination.

This book earns a mixed review from me.  Leah and her daughters were interesting characters and many of the secondary characters in the novel were also.  I thought some of the characters, however, were quite selfish and narcissistic.  The novel was quite suspenseful at times, but also moved along slowly at times.  I did love reading about what it was like for them adjusting to Paris as Americans, and the descriptions of other expatriate Americans that lived in Paris before them.  I enjoyed the time spent on books and authors, but others might not.

One area the book addressed well was the anguish that parents experience when they wonder if they have done a good job as a parent.

I will close with some quotes from the book.  First, two quotes from Leah about The Red Balloon and its author/filmmaker:

“The  Red Balloon depicts a Paris that is gorgeous but also bleak: a young boy befriends a magical red balloon as large and round as a beach ball; they explore the city for roughly thirty‑two minutes; then bullies fell the balloon with rocks. There are few deaths in cinema as excruciating as the balloon’s, whose once‑smooth surface puckers hideously as it shrinks and falls to the ground. This all lasts just sec‑ onds, or as any child watching will tell you, just longer than forever.”

“Lamorisse had made a beautiful film. And a handful more. And he’d made wine and ceramics and patterned fabrics, together with his family, in the hills above Saint‑ Tropez. He invented the board game Risk. And an aerial camera sys‑ tem called Helivision that the makers of the James Bond film Goldfinger had used, and so, too, Lamorisse, in the skies above Iran’s Karaj Dam, shooting a documentary for the last shah.”

The book also talks a lot about the Madeleine books and their author’s life and books for adults and children.

Here is one more quote that reflects the American in Paris angle.  Leah is walking her daughters to school.:

“Madame Grillo is often cleaning her sidewalk as we pass. She takes great delight in our morning routine: “courez, les filles, courez!” She gave Daphne and Ellie their own mops when we moved in. Ellie gave hers to me. Daphne used her mop so often she asked for a new one that Christmas.
 “Bonjour, Madame,” I call as we hurtle by. 
“Les Américains toujours passionnants!” she calls back, although I’m not quite sure that’s what she means. Neither of us is a native French speaker; Ellie insists we are not passionnants but pressés. Re‑ gardless, I like Madame. I think she likes us, or at least the daily show we provide.
 If we run hard and the lights favor us—although the lights, too, seem to know we are American, and enjoy making life that much more difficult—we will make it to school just before the doors close. This is a fraught moment, whatever your nationality; one does not want to be locked out. And if you are more than twenty minutes late, you are sent to a special room, something like detention, but whose French name is emphatically more grim: permanence. But today, suc‑ cès. The girls disappear into the building, never glancing my way, so mortified are they that I’ve accompanied them: parents don’t belong here. Few come. And those who do almost never go in; with few exceptions, parents are expected to stay outside. 
So I do, and this leaves me to study the lunch menu, which is prominently posted on the outer wall. Cassoulet today. And for din‑ ner? The school does not serve dinner, but the woman who heads our school takes a particular interest in food, and so sometimes posts suggestions about what les parents should serve, based on what our children have been fed earlier. Tonight: poulet, chicken. Non frit, a note clarifies, I assume just for me: not fried.”

Thank you Dutton and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader’s Copy of this novel and for allowing me to review it.
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I just loved this novel and the plot was fantastic! I loved it until I got to the ending and felt like I was hit by a truck because there was too many unanswered questions and I didn't like the way it ended at all but everything besides that was great. I really felt Robert and felt I could relate in quite a few ways. I thought the story had wonderful characters and the setting was gorgeous! I mean, a bookstore with an apartment above painted beautiful red(my favorite color) and in beautiful Paris. I didn't like the way mental distress/illness was perceived by one of the characters at some points but with it's flaws, I'm still glad I read this book and enjoyed in the beginning, the tale of a romance with two awkward and unique people that fell in love.
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I wanted to like this title more than I did. I just isn't care for the main character, she was self indulgent. I loved the premise but I never warmed up to the characters.
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All in all, there were lovely passages, but to sum it up: it is too long for the story that’s been told.
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A haunting, compelling tale set in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The opening pages grab you immediately and you fall in love with Leah as she sets out with her daughters to find her husband. Paris, as usual, closely guards its secrets, and Leah follows a serpentine trail for her elusive, eccentric husband. The path takes her to places she never could have imagined )including an English language bookstore) and the reader is drawn into the dizzying conclusion. Highly recommend. So happy I discovered this talented author and will read more of his work.
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Paris by the Book is a slow, almost languid novel that shows the author's love for the city. The characters are engaging, but slow to develop and the real star of this book is the way the atmosphere in Paris is created and conveyed. I like the idea of tracing a literary mystery, even though I was not terribly gripped by it. That being said, the writing was eloquent and I would probably read more by this author in the future.
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This is a book that requires time! It is quite slow moving at the beginning, but it picks up after about halfway through. The narrator, Leah is likeable enough. Her daughters are wonderful! Leah's marriage is difficult to understand at times as her husband takes "write aways" where he leaves his wife and 2 daughters for days at a time to supposedly write.  When he goes missing during a write-away that he never returns from, his wife and daughters head to Paris in the hopes of tracking him down and finding out what happened to him. 

The writing about Paris is wonderful and the references to Madeline and The Red Balloon are interwoven in an interesting manner although they become a bit overdone.  The book is very hard to stick with at the beginning. I put it down quite often until I got over halfway through and then, I became much more invested in the story and really wanted to see what happens!
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Thank you for giving me the opertunity to read and review this book prior to its publication date. Do events in my personal life, unfortunately I was not able to read this book prior to the Publication date. When I initially asked to read the book I found the premise to be interesting. I am looking forward to the release of other titles in your upcoming publican catalog. I would love to have the oppertunity again to read future publication titles. Thank you for your generosity and the time you spent reviewing my request to read this book. 

I am required to give a star rating on netgally but will not be posting a review or giving a star rating for a book I have not read in its entirety on other patforms.
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Leah has always been obsessed with Paris. As a child she was fascinated by Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon movie based in France, and from there sparked a desire that only grew with time. Robert is a writer trying to make a name for himself. When his paths cross with a beautiful woman in a bookshop, his life changes forever.

The two start talking about their favorite French authors: Lamorisse of The Red Balloon for her, Ludwig Bemelmans of Madeline for him. As they discuss the books and Paris, they begin to fall in love.

Fast forward years later, they have married and now have two daughters. Robert hasn’t made a break-through in writing, and Leah forfeited her filmmaking career for speechwriting. One day, Robert disappears and no one has heard from him. This isn’t too unusual, Robert would leave on writeaways to work on his novels but he did not leave a note this time. The search for Robert has come up fruitless, but his family refuse to believe that he is dead.

Months after his disappearance, a single clue falls out of a cereal box. This begins a stream of clues that leads them to a bookshop in Paris. Leah and the girls fall in love with Paris, and together they try to heal but they keep looking for glimpses of Robert.

Paris by the Book is such a good story that really touched my heart. I happen to be picking up books that are set in Paris, and the more I read the more I want to visit. This book was no exception. It touched on some of the not so touristy parts of the city and the difficulties of Americans living in Paris. But this book goes so much deeper, it’s a family trying to get their lives back together. Paris allows them to do that, without letting go of what they left behind.

Paris by the Book was almost a 5 star read. But I had to knock it down to 4 for two reasons. One, the Prologue seemed misleading of Leah’s character. We are introduced to her as a ‘man chaser.’ She’s looking for her husband and when Leah sees a man that resembles Robert, she follows him throughout the city before heading home. But in the body of the novel itself, I don’t see any clues that Leah is searching. Even her daughters make the comment that she’s not searching. But maybe the author means to portray that Leah is looking, but not searching. Two, I have mixed feelings about how things tied up in the end. That’s all I’m going to say without giving away spoilers.

Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan receives 4 stars.
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This book starts off really odd and then grew on me. I didn't like the beginning, but enjoyed it as it went on. A read that I think you have to read slowly and give it time to enjoy.
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I didn't get past the first couple pages, which were about a character stalking men.  It creeped me out and didn't match what I thought I would be reading based on the description of this book.  Maybe if I'd given it more time, it would have grown on me, but I have other things to read.
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A sweet, light read, recommended for anyone who enjoys Paris as a fictional setting. The relationship between mother and daughters rings true, and there are moments of unexpected humor.
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I didn’t want to give a star rating on this one because sadly I wasn’t able to finish it but since it’s required to post my review I felt that all I could do was 1 Star. I absolutely loved the description of this one and was so exited to get the galley but try as I might I just could not plod through it. I’ve tried 3 different times but I just can’t seem to connect with it. I’m not even really sure why, it just didn’t grab me and feels very disjointed. Maybe that evens out as the book progresses but for me there isn’t enough here to warrant a 4th attempt.
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We loved Paris by the Book and shared it with our followers on Book Garden. The link is below, thanks so much for sharing a copy with us!
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