The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown is what I consider to be the book of the summer. The book provides the perfect escape to Paris at the turn of the century, a bit of romance, and even more so a strong story about a woman discovering who she is and what she needs, rather than what everyone expects her to be.
I liked this book a lot. After having spent a week in Paris, upon returning, I binge read books set in Paris. It's my way of extending the trip, if only in my mind. Was very happy when I got approved for a review copy of this book and started reading it right away. It did a wonderful job of returning me to the city.
Part of what appealed to me about this story was the importance placed on art, creating art and appreciating art. In the beginning of the story, Madeleine is working as a volunteer at an art museum, and she has a conversation with an art teacher who is there with her students. Full disclosure, I'm an art teacher, so this had me hooked right away. This art teacher said all the right things - all the things an art teacher is supposed to say, because it's what we believe, and why we do our jobs. Madeleine loved art when she was younger, but then she got older and set it aside as if it were a childish hobby. The art teacher tries to encourage her to return to painting if that's what she loved doing. This conversation plants a seed in Madeleine's mind.
She isn't happy with her current life. She came from a wealthy, socially influential family, and married into the same. She did it because it was what was expected of her, not what she wanted. She's never paid any attention to what she wanted.
But shortly after talking to the art teacher, and after another argument with her husband, she's on her way to a planned visit with her mother. And she decided that maybe she'll stay a while, no need to rush back home to a husband that doesn't even seem to want her around.
And while she's at her mother's house, she finds a journal belonging to her grandmother. Through this journal, she discovers a side to her grandmother that she never knew existed. Her grandmother had gone away to Paris and fallen in love with an artist.
The story moves back and forth between Madeleine coping with her current situation, as we also follow along with the adventures of her grandmother in Paris. Her grandmother's story inspires her to try to rewrite her own story, to turn it into something she wants instead of doing what everyone else expects her to do.
I loved the Paris scenes, as well as the inspiring story of Madeleine finally discovering her true passion. It's a great book. It's my current recommendation if anyone says, "I don't know what to read right now." And I know I called it the book of the summer, but it's perfectly suitable for fall or winter or whenever. As a school teacher, I become a little fixated on summer. This is not by any means strictly a beach read. It has a strong story, emotionally satisfying. Would gladly recommend this book to any of my friends.
I received a copy of this via NetGalley.