Cover Image: Perestroika in Paris

Perestroika in Paris

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Member Reviews

What a delight!  Smiley delivers an anthropomorphic romp through Paris.  Friendships blossom between horse and dog, rat and raven, boy and a whole menagerie.  The streets of Paris come alive with the smells and tastes, sounds and sights from the animals perspectives.
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PERESTROIKA IN PARIS by Jane Smiley is her 31st book, but the first with talking animals.  Smiley explains that she has been thinking about this novel for close to a decade and hopes it offers "a distraction" to all the stress of 2020. A light and easy read, the story begins with a three-year-old filly named Perestroika (or Paras for short) having just won a race.  Ever curious, she manages to open her stall and ambles off to explore a nearby park.  There she meets a cast of animal characters (a pointer dog named Frida, a talkative raven and two mallards) who develop affection and concern for each other.  Helpful, generous humans provide food and eventually Paras is befriended by young Etienne, an eight-year-old orphan who cares for his grandmother in an old house in Paris. Frankly, there does not appear to be a great deal happening in the story; instead, the entertainment comes from wry observations, a growing sense of belonging, and the lingering worry of discovery. Described in various reviews as a wistful charmer, whimsical, heartwarming, and comforting, PERESTROIKA IN PARIS received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal.
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Jane Smiley is a writer of great skill and wide interests, whether it be a sharp dissection of academic politics (Moo) or the sweep of family drama, but she has a special love for horses. Perestroika in Paris is a horse story the way Charlotte’s Web is a spider story. It is charming, sensitive and funny with the added pleasure of offering a behind-the -scenes tour of Paris. It is full of quotable lines, both sweet and clever, and although I found it the perfect bedtime story to read to myself, I could also imagine sharing it with a youngster who loves E.B.White.
The plot centers on the unlikely friendship of a curious horse, a wise dog and a cynical raven who in turn connect with Etienne, an 8 year old living with his great grandmother in a dusty Parisian mansion. Smiley clearly loves her characters but she writes of them with an understanding of their natures, not sentimental or silly. Yes,  it is a work of fiction, but just possibly, you could imagine it all happening, and what a wonderful world that would be!
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This book was just pure fun. I was so interested in seeing how Jane Smiley tackled animal characters in an adult fiction novel. It was the perfect heartwarming and cozy read for December. I never thought my love for grumpy characters would also apply to a crow, but alas, here we are.
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4 ⭐️ for Perestroika in Paris

Synopsis: From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Jane Smiley, comes a novel about extraordinary animals whose lives intersect with a young boy in Paris. When Paras, short for "Perestroika," curiously wonders out of her horse stall into the City of Light, her world is turned upside down. She meets Frida, a German shorthaired pointer, who recently lost her “person,” and has been forced to learn to get by without attracting the attention of suspicious Parisians. The two embrace their freedom and love for the city as they explore its different parts and meet other animals. Everything changes, though, when Paras meets a human boy, Etienne, who is living alone with his sickly great grandmother. The relationship that forms between Paras, Frida, and Etienne celebrates curiosity, ingenuity, and the desire of all creatures for true love, freedom, and companionship.

My thoughts: this is a heartwarming story filled with some amazing elements. It gives you adorable animals and the City of Light (numerous pastries are described 🤤)—what more could you ask for? Between the length (only 288 pages) and the writing style, it is a quick and easy read. Also, although I requested this one because it has a German shorthaired pointer in it, it turned out being much deeper than I expected. The book is quite philosophical at times, musing on each animal’s or human’s desires for his or her life. Overall, the book is a perfect tale of how each of us can find our “pack,” even in the most unlikely of places and creatures.

Who should read: fans of W. Bruce Cameron, fans of books that feature animal perspectives, or any animal lover who would enjoy a Parisian setting.
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This is an enjoyable animal fantasy.  Peres (Perestroika) is a racehorse who managed to let herself out of the stable in Paris and sets out on an adventure. As she explores Paris, she becomes friends with a dog and an orphan boy. Their adventures are a great way to see Paris though different eyes and escape the political talking heads. I’ve been a children’s librarian forever and reading this book gives me the same warm feeing that reading a book by Kate DiCamillo.
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Perestroika (Paras for short) discovers an unlatched stall and ventures out to find out if the grass really is greener in other parts of Paris. She meanders into a park near the Eiffel Tower and her period of freedom begins. Along with her are Frida (a dog), Roux (a raven), and Sid and Nancy (the Mallard couple). Frida is smart enough to know what to do with the euros in the purse Paras brings along. Roux pontificates at length on a variety of subjects. Eventually they go home with a boy who lives with his blind and deaf great-grandmother, Madame de Mornay. A rat named Kurt joins the circle and it is delightful to see how all of their lives are changed as a result of their fellowship with one another. Assorted neighborhood shopkeepers and others develop relationships with one of more of the band of animals, but no one puts two and two together. How long can they all remain under the radar? Until the root cellar is empty? As long as Madame de Mornay is still living? When does indecision cross the line to procrastination? The city of Paris is a character of her own in this story. If I had visited that iconic city in the past I do believe I would have been ready to give this book five stars. The cover alone is spectacular. Thinking of a horse taking naps inside a beautiful old house makes me smile so big. Smiley's ability to take us into the minds and hearts of the animals is a gift and reminds me of Meindert DeJong and Kate DiCamillo. 

Thank you to Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
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After the furor of political and Covid19 news, this was a delightful, calming  story to simply enjoy. It manages to bring together the best of people (and animals) at a time when it is needed most. Told from a horse's point of view (yes, horse), it champions curiosity, friendship, overcoming fear, and what makes a family. Loved it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing for the ARC to read and review.
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I was totally charmed by Smiley's latest. I still love "Moo"; however, the complications of life in 2020 call for a simple, comforting read, so, for this year at least, this is my favorite. I give it five out of five hearts.
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This was a lovely escapist read.  It is a fairytale for adults and like all fairytales it requires a certain suspension of realistic cynicism. Personally, I am more than willing to suspend my realistic cynicism and escape to a magical Paris with Perestroika, a Candide like horse. I encourage you to read this and enjoy pre-dawn trots through Paris visiting bakeries and  hidden courtyards with Peri and her loyal dog companion.
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Charming,  inventive, makes you sit up and notice the beauty surrounding you no matter where you are. Perfect for anyone to while away a rainy afternoon but especially for francophiles and hippophiles.
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What a charming story. It was such a wonderful read to put the reader into another world, and forget about the troubles all around us now. Perestroika is a very curious race horse. When her stall door somehow becomes unlatched, she steps out into a very different world than she is used to. Grazing her way through green areas, she wanders further and further away from her stall. She meets a streetwise dog, Frida, who has recently lost her master; Raoul, the Latin speaking raven, a pair of mallard ducks who go by Sid and Nancy. They form a sort of unity, and take in a young boy, Etienne and a baker who feeds Perestroika her oats each morning.  A groundskeeper at one of the parks takes an interest in this odd group of characters. Etienne's grandmother has a part in the story as well.

Meanwhile, Perestroika's trainer is at a loss as to where that horse could have gone. How do you misplace a horse?  After months of searching, to no avail, the story ends well.  This whimsical story could probably only have been set in Paris.
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Jane Smiley certainly doesn't disappoint with this wonderful allegory of friendship and family; filled with a "wild" assortment of animals - a curious race horse, a streetwise dog, a philosophical raven, and homebody ducks.. It's a marvelous tale where a discontented and curious racehorse leaves his stall, trotting off on an adventure to Paris.  In Paris he makes friends with and is supported by his very diverse animal family.  He also falls in with a very sheltered 8-year old boy who becomes a member of this ragtag group.  The story is filled with charm, wonderful escapades, and love.   Highly recommended for book groups.  Highly recommended as a chapter goodnight book for older children.  This will be one of those well-remembered books for years to come!
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From the Pulitzer Prize winning author of One Thousand Acres comes an almost, but not quite quaintly whimsical story of a jumping/race horse that leaves her stable at the track for an adventure in Paris. She becomes fast friends with dog whose busker companion has died, a haughty aging raven, a lonely rat searching for love, and a mallard that needs therapy. Most importantly though she becomes friends with an 8-year-old boy whose is kept home by his great grandmother and very much needs the love of all the animals. This is the feel good book of 2020 for me, a must buy Christmas gift for book lovers.
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Perestroika in Paris was heartwarming and I loved having the viewpoints of the animals as the main part of the story. It would appeal to readers who like to see the way all the members of a small community work together, and how they look out for each other, both human and animal.
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I received an electronic ARC from Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group through NetGalley.
A delightful cast of characters let readers into their world. The story begins with a race horse who escapes from her stall and ventures off - winding up in Paris. There, Perestroika (Paras) meets Frida, a dog, Raoul, a raven, Sid and Nancy, mallards, and eventually Kurt, a black rat. Along the way, they encounter various humans who provide food and unwittingly help them stay hidden. One young boy, Etienne, who opens his home to Paras. 
It's an interesting novel about trust and survival and unusual bonds. The pace is relaxed but definitely not too slow. I appreciated this tender story that offers hope and comfort. Each animal has their own personality and goals in the relationships. It's refreshing to see how well they overcame their own fears and united to care for the whole group. This will be a wonderful holiday read.
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I’m suspicious of adult novels written from an animal’s point of view, but I trust Jane Smiley, and I admit, I was charmed by the cover, so I gave Perestroika in Paris a try and loved it. It is the story of a curious filly named Paras, short for Perestroika, who slips out of her open stall one autumn afternoon after winning a race at Auteil Racecourse and ventures into Paris. She takes up residence in the Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower and makes friends with a stray German shorthair named Frida, a raven named Raoul, and a pair of mallards called Sid and Nancy.

This much you could guess from the cover, and I’ll try to explain why I liked it so much without giving away any more than that. Once I suspended my disbelief about animals being able to understand human speech and communicate with one another across species (though they have to find means other than language to communicate with humans), I loved being inside the minds of these remarkable characters, experiencing the City of Light in the way a horse or a dog or a bird might. What do they eat? Where do they sleep? Will Perestroika’s trainer find her? Can Frida avoid the dog pound? I will reveal just enough more about the plot to say that as the animals connect with human characters, the reader comes to care about them too, especially young Etienne, an orphan who lives alone with his very old great-grandmother in a big ivy-covered house on the Rue Marinoni.

Even as I wanted to linger in Paris with these endearing people and creatures, the book turned into a page-turner. Each character faces real risks as they try to balance the desire for freedom with the desire for love, but their concern for one another ultimately cushions them against the world’s dangers (and against uncomfortable suspense for the reader). In a time of national discord, the possibility of connecting with others quite different from oneself gave me hope.
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Although Smiley is a fantastic writer and this is a delightful story, I'm not sure it's worthy of a novel-length treatment.  If you're looking for a fun, escapist read, this is a perfect pick.  It may appeal more to young adults than adult readers.
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I loved this book and didn't want it to end.  What a delight to read in the midst of a pandemic.  Kudos to the author for this very unique story.
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What an inventive, charming, heartwarming story.  I loved it so much I didn't want it to end. Smiley imbues animals with traits and characteristics that are both appropriately to their species, but very human like. I cannot wait for more people to read this book!
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