My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Time taken to read -3 days
Pages - 384
Publisher - HQ Stories
Source - Review copy
Blurb from Goodreads
A missing person, a grieving family, a curious clue: a half-finished manuscript set in Paris. Heading off in search of its author, a mother and her daughters find themselves in France, rescuing a failing bookstore and drawing closer to unexpected truths.
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 women follow the path of the manuscript to a small, floundering English-language bookstore whose weary proprietor is eager to sell. The whole store? Today? Yes, but Leah’s biggest surprise comes when she hears herself accepting the offer on the spot.
As the family settles into their new Parisian life, they can’t help but 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.
At once haunting and charming, Paris by the Book follows one woman’s journey as her story is being rewritten, exploring the power of family and the magic that hides within the pages of a book.
When Leah's husband goes missing it isn't exactly worrying, he does go off a lot to write and always comes back. This time he hasn't left a note, this time he hasn't come back, Leah and her two daughter's are trying to come to terms with it, why has he gone, where has he gone and why hasn't he come home? They find themselves in Paris, looking for Robert, making a new life for themselves both working in a book shop and looking after two young twins. The girls are adjusting to life in Paris, learning the language, constantly looking for their dad. Leah follows men who could be her husband, she sees him constantly whilst trying to come to terms with the fact he may actually be gone for good this time.
I have flipped back and forth on this book, 2.5 stars or 3 stars. I loved the location, once they get to Paris, Callanan describes the city so well I was actually there. The language, the social interactions, the etiquette, the buildings, the feeling of walking down the streets, it really made me want to visit again, this time as an adult.
The story itself, I read it as a woman's husband has disappeared so the book focus is going to be on that, tracking him and a whole big mystery. Whilst yes the husband aspect is addressed it isn't, for me, the bulk of the story. That was taken with Leah's personal journey, the courage to try and find out what happened, re locating, assessing her own self, her parenting, her relationship with her girls, analysing her relationship and what it was like with her husband. Therefore for me it was more of a personal journey, self exploration for Leah and the husband disappearance, whilst it kicked it all off, that took a back seat. That doesn't make it a bad story, not at all but it is one of the reasons I don't always read the blurbs now as I think you go in with a pre conceived idea and expectations of what the book will be which can hamper your enjoyment of the book. This is on me as a reader and not the author but it does hugely impact how I get on with the book.
My other issue was it jumps around an awful lot so I had to go over pages to make sure where the character was and what was happening. The timeline goes from present day, then flips back to a memory of say her and her husband either living together or pre marriage or how they came to be then back to current happenings. Then there are references to the books that brought Leah and Robert together, they both love works by two different authors and Leah talks about one that was made into a movie. How it impacted on her, how it brought her and Robert together and it did pique my interest into them which I love when a book does that. I am not sure if there was an undercurrent to the book that just went over my head that maybe other readers may well appreciate.
My other big issue was actually Leah and Robert's relationship, he could just take off for unknown amounts of time to write. Leaving wee notes hidden in the house for Leah or the girls to find but it wouldn't tell them where he was or how long he was going for. It worked for them but I couldn't understand it, I couldn't imagine living in a relationship or household like that. It did give pause for thought though and made me contemplate what comes much later in the book. I cannot fathom Leah's choices or actions, I don't get Robert either but as a mother Leah had me totally baffled. Again maybe it was done purposely and the reasons are just over my head completely. I finished the book a few days ago and am still pondering it so credit to the author for that. 2.5 out of 5 for me this time, this was my first dance with Callanan and I would read more of his work if I came across it. Really interested in hearing what other readers made of this and more importantly Leah's behaviours, her and Robert's relationship and some of the choices they make. I think this would be a brilliant book for a book group discussion as there is so much of the book you can break down, analyse and I think will split many opinions!