Paris Was the Place
By: Susan Conley
Format/Source: Paperback courtesy of the author as part of Paris Was the Place Book Tour
When Willie Pears begins teaching at a center for immigrant girls in Paris all hoping for French asylum, the lines between teaching and mothering quickly begin to blur. Willie has fled to Paris to create a new family, and she soon falls for Macon, a passionate French lawyer. Gita, a young girl at the detention center, becomes determined to escape her circumstances, no matter the cost. And just as Willie is faced with a decision that could have dire consequences for Macon and the future of the center, her brother is taken with a serious, as-yet-unnamed illness.
This book was released in hardback on August 6th. I read this book as part of the Books on France Reading Challenge 2013 that I am participating in. The following is a small preview of the novel:
Family history: a shared story
I try taking Boulevard de Strasbourg away from the crowds at the St. Denis metro stop to find the girls. This isn’t one of those gilded Paris streets heralding the end of a war or the launch of a new haute couture line. The sky’s already turned gray again, but it’s flanged lilac in places. The early dusk settles around the Beauty for You hair salon and a small pyramid of green-and-white shampoo bottles in the pharmacie window. I’m almost lost but not entirely, searching for an asylum centre full of girls on Rue de Metz. Two mothers in saris pick over veggies while their toddlers jump in place on the sidewalk holding hands. A tabac sign yells LOTTERY FRANCE!
The sequencing of the neighbourhoods here baffles me–arranged like the curvature of some terrestrial snail. I’m in the tenth arrondissement, anchored by two of Paris’s great train stations, where the alleyways weave into mapless places. I’m not embarrassed to carry my Michelin. But it’s colder here at four o’clock in January than I ever thought it could be, and three of my fingers have gone numb.
Readers of contemporary fiction, novels set in France and novels that tackle themes of immigration and family may be interested in checking this novel out. You can pick up a copy of the novel through Amazon.com
ABOUT SUSAN CONLEY
Susan Conley is a writer and teacher. Her memoir, The Foremost Good Fortune (Knopf 2011), chronicles her family’s experiences in modern China as well as her journey through breast cancer. The Oprah Magazine listed it as a Top Ten Pick, Slate Magazine chose it as “Book of the Week,” and The Washington Post called it “a beautiful book about China and cancer and how to be an authentic, courageous human being.” Excerpts from the memoir have been published in The New York Times Magazine and The Daily Beast.
Susan’s writing has also appeared in The Paris Review, The Harvard Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Gettysburg Review, The North American Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. A native of Maine, she earned her B.A. from Middlebury College and her M.F.A. in creative writing from San Diego State University. After teaching poetry and literature at Emerson College in Boston, Susan returned to Portland, where she cofounded and served as executive director of The Telling Room, a nonprofit creative writing center. She currently teaches at The Telling Room and at the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA Program.
Many thanks to France Book Tours for hosting this book and for letting me read this book as part of the tour.