To put it quite simply, Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod is absolutely magnifique, a perfect book for anyone who dreams of traveling the world.
The story follows the author’s -Janice’s- adventures once she quits her dull, 9-5- job, packs up her belongings into a single suitcase and travels to Europe. She arrives in Paris, where she falls in love with both the city’s undeniable charm, and an equally charming, Polish butcher named Christophe. The novel chronicles Janice’s journey of self discovery as she learns to rethink her lifestyle and embrace adventure in a foreign land.
I finished this book in nearly one sitting, as it’s rather short, only about 250 pages, and I cannot imagine reading it any other way. The story, for me, was more about Janice’s journey and the mood of Paris, than her actual travels. The letters included throughout the novel completely enrich the reading experience, and her writing takes you away along with her to Paris and beyond.
Although I couldn’t relate that much to the main character- understandably since I am 20 years younger- it didn’t hinder my ability to become enthralled in the story and find myself nodding my head as I read about her experiences. What makes this novel truly brilliant is the picture it paints of travel, and the mood that is so concretely installed within the text. The way MacLeod describes Paris, her struggles with the language barrier, and the pickpockets that roam the streets, seems so realistic and yet incredibly enchanting, making you believe in the magic of the French.
Since I’ve never been to Paris, I wouldn’t know whether or not her descriptions are accurate representations of the city, but Paris Letters made me want to immediately pack my bags and head off to the City of Love. She talks a lot about minimalism and avoiding the urge to travel like a tourist. I felt myself encouraged to throw away my schedule, and spend time lounging by the Seine with a journal instead of rushing off to the Louvre. In many ways, her approach to travel is greatly influenced by her Paris lover, Christophe, but she adopts her own roaming style as she becomes adapted to the city and her newfound freedom.
Whenever somebody wants to travel, the immediate question is always related to money, and MacLeod deals with the topic quite honestly. She explains how she saved money to quit her job and jet off to Europe, and she doesn’t sugar coat anything and say that it’s easy. I think that the issue of money is always people’s number one problem when trying to travel, but there are many tips and tricks wound throughout the story, as well as a handy guide to earning extra money located in the back of the book. She explains that you can earn money doing what you love, not just what you’re good at, and can cater your job around your travels.
Overall, Paris Letters left me with an ache in my heart, amplifying my excitement to one day experience Paris for myself along with the rest of the world. I couldn’t have read this novel at a better time, and although some parts are a bit slow, they center around the creation of a mood that will make you close your eyes and dream of crêperies and antique bookshops glowing in the Paris sun.