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Paris By the Book by Liam Callanan
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Paris By the Book

by Liam Callanan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2081891,598 (3.5)22
NATIONAL BESTSELLER A missing person, a grieving family, a curious clue: a half-finished manuscript set in Paris Once a week, I chase men who are not my husband. . . . 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 girls follow the path of the manuscript to a small, floundering English-language bookstore whose weary proprietor is eager to sell. Leah finds herself accepting the offer on the spot. As the family settles into their new Parisian life, they 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. Charming, haunting, and triumphant, Paris by the Book follows one woman's journey as she writes her own story, exploring the power of family and the magic that hides within the pages of a book.… (more)

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» See also 22 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Given to me by Rochelle O’Hagan
  LindaFSHemp | May 17, 2020 |
Digital audiobook read by Kim Bubbs

From the book jacket: When eccentric novelist Robert Eady abruptly vanishes, he leaves behind his wife, Leah, their daughters, and, hidden in an unexpected place, plane tickets to Paris. Hoping to uncover clues – and her husband – Leah sets off for France with her girls. [There] she discovers an unfinished manuscript Robert had been writing without her knowledge … and that he had set it in Paris. Mother and daughters follow the path of the manuscript to a small, floundering English-language bookstore whose weary proprietor is eager to sell. Leah finds herself accepting the offer on the spot.

My reactions
I wanted to love this book. The author is from my home town, the beginning of the book is set in Milwaukee, and then the action moves to a city I love, Paris France. Plus, it’s a book about books. But …

I never really connected with these characters. I didn’t understand this great love between Robert and Leah. He was always given to these “disappearing” acts and it was clear to me (so why not to Leah?) that he had some significant mental and/or emotional health issues. Her continued grief and inability to move on just drove me crazy. On the other hand, I can only imagine how devastating this was for her, especially with two little girls who NEVER STOPPED looking for their Dad.

The twists and turns in the story gave me difficulty as well. It seemed all too convenient that they could suddenly get an extended visa, for example. I won’t mention other twists to avoid any spoilers.

Bottom line, it’s a splendid premise, has some great atmospheric scenes highlighting Paris, includes MANY book references, but didn’t live up to my expectations.

Kim Bubbs does a fine job narrating the audiobook. I could easily tell which character was speaking, and it moved at a satisfying pace. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 18, 2020 |
Like a lot of other avid readers, I can’t resist at least taking a look at any book whose title includes the words “book” or “bookstore.” Sometimes even the word “library” does the trick. But as many times as not, I find that the plot doesn’t really interest me enough to read them, or I do read them and end up wishing I hadn’t. I’m happy to report that neither of those things happened with Liam Callanan’s 2018 novel Paris by the Book. This one, about an American woman and her two daughters who buy a failing Paris bookstore pushed all the right buttons, but there’s a lot more going on here than button-pushing.

Leah Eady’s husband Robert writes children books, just not as many as he used to write. And these days Robert is taking way more writer’s breaks than he used to take, breaks during which he disappears from home for two or three days at a time. Robert uses the time to hole up in some quiet spot where he labors to turn out a more few pages toward his next book. Leah may not particularly like the idea, but by now she’s used to it. So when Robert disappears again she is not all that concerned at first; that comes later, after her husband has been missing for an entire week.

Before he leaves, Robert often leaves little notes for his wife and daughters to find, but this time there’s nothing there – at least it seems that way. But then Leah uncovers tickets to Paris for herself and her daughters, and she wonders if the tickets might somehow be tied to Robert’s absence. She decides to take her children to Paris to see if they might find Robert there waiting for them – but he isn’t. What turns up instead is a partially completed novel that Robert has apparently been working on without her knowledge, a story set in a Paris bookstore owned by a family that sounds very much like hers. A close study of the partial manuscript leads Leah and her two girls to a small failing bookstore very much like the one in Robert’s story, so when the bookstore owner offers to sell the store to Leah she does what she thinks her husband wants her to do: she buys it. But where is he?

Paris by the Book is all about a damaged American family in Paris, one searching desperately to find the missing piece that will make it whole again. Leah and her two girls settle into their new lives nicely, but all three of them feel as if Robert is out there somewhere watching them do it. The girls go to school and make new friends, and Leah, despite herself, is starting to feel as if she were single again. As the months go by, she begins to wonder if Robert could be dead, but she is not sure she really wants to know the truth. Perhaps that truth, whatever it is, would be even harder on the family than believing that he would walk through their bookstore’s door one day to tell them he was back.

One of the things that most surprised me about Paris by the Book is how much I learned from it about Ludwig Bemelmans’s Madeline series of children’s books and about Leah’s all-time favorite book, one by Albert Lamorisse called The Red Balloon. Ellie and Daphne share their mother’s love of The Red Balloon and are thrilled to be living in the very Parisian neighborhood in which the book is set. These girls are definitely book people, so living above a bookstore is their idea of heaven. Leah explains her girls this way:

“I have strange children. Or the world wanted me to think that way, at least when we lived in Wisconsin: my girls grew up loving to read. True, they liked milk, understood football, and were as bewitched by screens – TV screens, movie screens, and most definitely phone screens – as everyone else. But they were strange in that they loved reading above all else.”

Bottom Line: Paris by the Book is a booklover’s dream. It features a weird little English-language bookstore in the heart of Paris and some of the world’s favorite children’s books. It’s about solving the mystery of a missing man who walked away from his family one morning without saying goodbye and hasn’t been seen since. It’s about the streets of Paris and what happens in the city’s little neighborhoods after all the tourists have called it a day. And most importantly, it’s about books and how loving them can sometimes change a family’s life for the better. ( )
  SamSattler | Nov 8, 2019 |
Leah and Robert’s relationship is formed through literary connections, specifically two French children’s works: Madeline, and The Red Balloon. Leah has always wanted to visit Paris and Robert, a struggling writer, promises they will someday. They marry, have two daughters, and settle into a fairly typical American suburban lifestyle. But their relationship begins to fracture when Robert’s career stalls, and one day he just disappears, seemingly without a trace. Even as the family is trying to figure out what happened, they discover he left behind airline tickets for Leah and their children. Was this a hint? Could he have gone to Paris? They decide to make the trip and see what they find. After a few missteps they end up living in and operating a once-profitable Paris bookshop, but they never stop looking for Robert and hoping he will re-enter their lives.

On one level, this works. Literary references abound, the wonders of Paris come through on the printed page, and the struggle to adjust to a new country is portrayed well. But: this is a family dealing with unresolved loss. While Robert’s spirit was nearly omnipresent, Leah and her daughters coped with it all a little too smoothly. Leah repeatedly decided not to talk to her teenage daughters about what they are going through. And somehow the daughters just carried on with their lives and occasionally even saved the day in difficult situations. I just didn’t buy it. There was also a lot of “is he/isn’t he” about Robert which made sense but went back and forth too many times.

This was a decent read with some shortcomings. ( )
  lauralkeet | Oct 1, 2019 |
The elevator pitch for this book must have been a Paris-smitten bibliophile’s dream book: an author vanishes leaving behind a wife and two adolescent daughters who find a clue that he might be in Paris, follow him there, end up staying, buy a bookstore, and continually scan the Paris streets for him. It’s a mystery, a love story, a love affair with Paris, and an emotional exploration of loss and remembrance. It’s one part Bemelman (author of the Madeline stories), one part Lamorisse (writer/director of The Red Balloon) and one part Modiano. It sounds incredibly enticing. And there are moments — more than just moments, to be fair — in which the mélange becomes something altogether new and a bit wonderful. Alas, there is also the difficult problem of going from elevator pitch to full-length novel. The huge leaps the reader is asked to take, the implausibility of some situations, the plot holes, and the tricksy business of 21st century passports and identity tracking, which make the reading at times a bit of a slog. Nonetheless, I think most lovers of Paris will still say they enjoyed the book. Just thinking yourself into Paris page after page is probably enough.

And so, gently recommended for lovers of Paris only. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Jun 12, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Liam Callananprimary authorall editionscalculated
Inchbald, IsabellaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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