Book review: Novel tells story of family, love, finding oneself
If you go
What: An Evening with Eleanor Brown, part of Bud Werner Memorial Library's Author Series
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16
Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library
Information: Brown will talk about her books and sign copies, courtesy of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.
“The Light of Paris,” by Eleanor Brown
Eleanor Brown, author of the New York Times bestselling novel, “The Weird Sisters,” has crafted another irresistible story of family, love and finding oneself in “The Light of Paris.”
The story is told in alternating chapters by Madeleine in 1999 and her grandmother, Margaret, in 1919. Madeleine, a young woman trapped in a loveless marriage, is deeply unhappy. She leaves her cold husband and retreats to her hometown and the home of her hypercritical mother who, when not admonishing Madeleine for the way she looks or the things that she should do, is consumed with her garden club, Ladies Auxiliary, fundraising committees and luncheons.
Unbeknownst to Madeleine, her mother has decided to sell the large family house and move to a trendy condo. While going through the family boxes in the attic, Madeleine stumbles across her grandmother’s journals and thus, begins Margaret’s story.
Margaret “Margie,” too, is trapped and suffers an impossible-to-please mother who expects her to settle down and marry. When her cousin, Evelyn, embarks on a trip to Paris, Margie is recruited to be her chaperone and eagerly accepts, delighted to escape an oppressive and utterly dull life at home. Thus begins a wildly romantic foray into Paris life and culture, giving her the freedom to spend her days and nights as she chooses.
Madeleine, too, begins to discover joy by stumbling across a whole new group of creative friends and places in the town where she grew up, enabling her to actually be herself for the first time.
There are many parallels between the lives of Madeleine and the grandmother she never knew. Each struggle with meeting the expectations of others versus being who they really want to be. Margie longs to be a writer, something her own mother believed was a frivolous waste of time, while Madeleine longs to be an artist, having given up her paints and easel when she married.
Brown has created vivid, engaging characters the reader falls for quickly. Don’t we all struggle with the expectations we impose on ourselves and the conflicting desire to discover what really makes us happy and brings us joy? “The Light of Paris” is a touching and thoroughly captivating summer read.
This book is available at the Bud Werner Memorial Library and Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.
Chris Painter is director of Bud Werner Memorial Library.
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