Paris by the Book

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

How does one cope when your partner vanishes, leaving you and your children with scant clues about the why and where of it all? In Paris By The Book, Liam Callanan, in prose which is both deft and light, explores this question. He takes us inside the minds and hearts of Leah Eady and her two children when her husband, Robert, mysteriously disappears. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but potential readers should know this book weaves together Paris, literary and cinematic history, real people coping with real loss, and figuring out how to move on - all without taking any easy ways out. Callanan avoids simplistic explanations and instead delivers a satisfying climax which answers our questions (which are really Leah's questions) in an intelligent, provocative way. Read and love. I did.
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My favorite part of this book was the sense of place and how the city of Paris became an additional character in the book. Paris was magically portrayed and served as the perfect backdrop for this haunting tale. 3.5 Stars
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An odd book that I oddly enjoyed. After a bit of a slow start, the action picked up: a writer disappears, leaving his wife and daughters and plane tickets to Paris. The wife and girls end up living in Paris, constantly looking for the dad. 

The book sagged in the middle, and at one point, I skipped to the last chapter. The ending caught my interest, and I went back and read about the last fourth of the book, which was riveting. 

Do I recommend this book? People will have wildly varying opinions on this novel. It's imaginative, but I didn't think the author quite pulled it off. The middle needs deep editing, but the ending posed thought-provoking questions about the life of a writer. Overall, I found the book intriguing.
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Paris by the Book is a fascinating read.  A female voice by a male author who does a darn good job of getting us right.  This is a mystery book but not a who dunnit.  It begins almost as a stalker book and then slowly reveals itself to be anything but.  It has the air of fantasy and the role of the missing person makes no sense at all but it doesn't matter.  The writing is good and it's hard to put down.  Plus it's Paris where I live and complete fun wandering the streets of many arrondissements with Leah and her children.

This is a story of a depressed husband with writer's block who goes missing--which he's done before but never for this long.  A clue uncovers plane tickets to Paris and the wife, Leah, and her two children pick up their lives in Milwaukee and fly there expecting more clues as to the whereabouts of husband/father, Robert Eady.  Leah sees him everywhere.  The kids never give up hope even as they integrate themselves easily into Parisian life and their new school.  The police back in Wisconsin declare him dead after a year.  Leah's best friend flies to Paris with one hundred pages of a manuscript Robert left behind that Leah has never seen.  And it goes on.  The pace is fast and the reader really has no time to think if anything makes sense or not.  Rather it is a meditation on marriage, on writing, on motherhood all set with Paris and it's wonders as the backdrop.

Liam Callanan is coming to Paris to talk about this book in March 2019.  I'm very much looking forward to hear how he conceived the plot and the characters.  I give this book two thumbs up.
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I see Paris anything and I want to know more. I have been wanting to visit Paris for so long but the only way I will get there right now is to read about this city. Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan got my attention right away with the pretty cover and of course, the Paris connection. 


When eccentric novelist Robert Eady abruptly vanishes, he leaves behind his wife, Leah, their daughters, and, hidden in an unexpected spot, plane tickets to Paris.

Hoping to uncover clues—and her husband—Leah sets off for France with her girls. Upon their arrival, she discovers an unfinished manuscript, one Robert had been writing without her knowledge…and that he had set in Paris. The Eady women follow the path of the manuscript to a small, floundering English-language bookstore whose weary proprietor is eager to sell. The whole store? Today? Yes, but Leah’s biggest surprise comes when she hears herself accepting the offer on the spot.

As the family settles into their new Parisian life, they can’t help but trace the literary paths of some beloved Parisian classics, including Madeline and The Red Balloon, hoping more clues arise. But a series of startling discoveries forces Leah to consider that she may not be ready for what solving this mystery might do to her family—and the Paris she thought she knew.

Doesn’t the premise sound fun and mysterious? I love the idea and the places the author is going to take us within the pages of this book. This book is out now!
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Nice read!  This story is for lovers of the Madeline children's book series and the film The Red Balloon. It is also for people who love and know Paris. The characters are extremely well drawn. The story of Robert abandoning his family is well laid out, as a mystery. It's a page turner, even if I had a bit of a hard time suspending disbelief a lot of the time. Excellent choice for a quick read.
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From acclaimed author of 'The Cloud Atlas', Liam Callanan is back with another harrowing tale full of mystery, lust, music, enchantment, and the deadly allure of Paris. Nuanced and charming, this book will make you fall in love with books again.
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This eARC was provided through NetGalley from Penguin Group Dutton in exchange for an honest review.

When I noticed this book on NetGalley, I was immediately intrigued- anything that sounds like I get to vicariously travel sounds like a read for me. I sent off my request for a copy, and eagerly waited. It took some time before I got approved, and I had almost given up hope, but when I got a "congratulations" email, my excitement was renewed- though I had to wait even more as this eARC was approved during my chaotic November.

Anyways, from page one, this novel hooks the reader into the intimate life of Leah Eady after her husband, Robert, goes missing. They fell in love with many things in common, but the biggest being their adoration of French writing and Paris. When Robert goes missing, it's not the first time he's slipped off to write without more than a tiny note, but it's certainly the longest he's been gone, and Leah feels like there's something different about it this time. After weeks of waiting, they find a clue, a confirmation number for four for a flight to Paris- maybe he wants them to meet in Paris?

When it becomes clear that he isn't waiting for them in an obvious location, the Eady women- Leah and her daughters Daphne and Ellie- try to distract themselves with the wonders of the city. The longer they stay the more they enjoy Paris- but it doesn't heal the hurt felt by losing Robert. They're constantly looking for him, and many times, the girls swear to their mother that they've seen him.

Leah struggles to handle the fact that her husband has left her, and even more so because there's nothing that proves whether he's dead, or gone. Living in limbo, she must decide what is best for her and her daughters- to move on, or to not give up hope that Robert is somewhere, alive and searching for them too.

The best way I can describe the overall vibe of Callanan's writing is emotionally and intimately obscure. As a reader, I can feel the emotion in the writing, and it's very descriptive, but I had no idea where the plot was heading, and there was very little linear writing. The character's inner thoughts jumped around, the timeline is all over the place... it's a bit of a mess, really. It took me an absurd amount of time to get the simplest of details about this family- their names, ages- yet I felt like I was looking through a microscope of their lives, and could see exactly where and what these characters looked like. As the novel went on, I felt myself losing the initial excitement I felt, because the main character made me feel emotionally drained. I struggled to maintain interest far beyond the middle of the book, but I kept reading in the hopes that Robert would reappear. In the end, I was just disappointed- it felt as if the climax of the novel peaked in around the middle, and the conclusion took forever to get to. Sadly, I don't think I would recommend this book.

( This review will be an upcoming post on my blog: )
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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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