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The Emperor of Paris by CS Richardson

The Emperor of Paris

by CS Richardson

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The Emperor of Paris: A Novel by C.S. Richardson is a delicately written story about the fated circumstances leading two unlikely people together: Octavio Notre-Dame, an illiterate Parisian baker and Isabeau Normande, a woman shamed by facial scars from a disfiguring accident as a child.

The book feels classically written with a formality that feels as genteel as Parisian culture and fable-like as the books collected by the passionate baker in the story, in particular the book, The Arabian Nights.

Much of the dialogue, too, is the heartwarming way in which father and son communicate through the sight of pictures and shared storytelling to compensate for their illiteracy.

They thread into part vocal testament to the brutality of war and poverty and the power of imagination and storytelling as a source of survival and joy. And perhaps a subliminal comment on the true meaning of literacy itself.

Octavio’s charm resides in his humility as a man, his genuine, innocent, yet grand storytelling, as well as his tender relationship with his father even after the effects of post-traumatic stress from war, and his thoughtful and quiet pursuit of the equally shy and isolated, Isabeau Normande.

Isabeau, herself, takes comfort and solace in the dark basements of the Louvre where she meticulously restores beauty to classical paintings as an answer to her personal passion for art itself and perhaps as a form of personal redemption in answer to her own facial disfigurement.

To read the rest of my review, please visit my blog, The Bibliotaphe's Closet:


Zara ( )
  ZaraD.Garcia-Alvarez | Jun 6, 2017 |
Loved it! Reading this book was almost like looking at a series of paintings. The prose was so evocative of images, which was so fitting since the main character is illiterate. Mr. Richardson can create a real sense of place...images, smells, feelings...in just a few words. And the characters are paradoxically sparsely drawn yet have so much depth. So, amazing writing and a touching love story to boot. ( )
  LynnB | Jan 31, 2015 |
Paris at the turn of the century. The previous century. Love is in the air. Love and the aroma of sourdough and baguette, a boulangerie in the 8th arrondissement. Monsieur Emile Notre-Dame is said to be the thinnest baker in Paris. Together with his son, Octavio, he has a special talent for telling a tale. Show him a picture, give him one word, and he will craft a story out of thin air.

This is a whirlwind of a story that flashes between glimpses of Emile and his son, a bouquiniste name Henri, a destitute painter named Jacob, and a beautiful young woman named Isabeau who works at The Louvre. The interweaving is so light and complex — like a impressionist painting — but also so multifaceted — like a cubist painting, perhaps — that you are forced almost to race along, breathless, in hopes of finding some sort of solid ground before you put the book down, fearful that it might all just blow away if you close the covers. It is both frustrating and charming, and I don’t recommend it for other writers, even though C.S. Richardson handles it beautifully.

The slight reservation I might have is that such an airy confection works against the emotional involvement of the reader. So even though there is surely a great love story unfolding, it is impossible to fully empathize with the key figures. And that the resolution is deferred and deferred and delayed and delayed right up to the final page only accentuates this effect. Thus I find myself both enjoying this novel at the same time as wishing that I could have loved it even more. But perhaps we have to make do with the technical feat that Richardson has achieved and applaud that in itself. Which I do. Gently recommended. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Apr 3, 2014 |
A sweet and romantic read about Paris! I was walking along the streets of Paris in June and perusing the small green book stalls that feature so prominently in the book. - it took me right back. What could be better than a wonderfully written volume about books, french pastries, and art restoration . . . not to mention love! ( )
  tarencotta | Sep 30, 2013 |
Just a seriously lovely, romantic story that appears, at first blush, to be about the inevitable meeting—one man, one woman—but, as with all tales, it's *in* the telling. One word, and it begins.

A really nice love letter to books, readers, and storytellers. ( )
  BookMadam | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385670907, Hardcover)

Like his father before him, Octavio runs the Notre-Dame bakery, and knows the secret recipe for the perfect Parisian baguette. But, also like his father, Octavio has never mastered the art of reading and his only knowledge of the world beyond the bakery door comes from his own imagination. Just a few streets away, Isabeau works out of sight in the basement of the Louvre, trying to forget her disfigured beauty by losing herself in the paintings she restores and the stories she reads. The two might never have met, but for a curious chain of coincidences involving a mysterious traveller, an impoverished painter, a jaded bookseller, and a book of fairytales, lost and found . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:44 -0400)

An illiterate Parisian baker and a deformed reclusive woman form an unlikely romance.

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