Book Reviews · reading ahead · Six Book Challenge

Book Review: Paris for One

Paris for One is my first read in the Reading Ahead Challenge! For more information, check out our blog post here or come and ask in the Information Store.

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Nell’s story is one that is very familiar to many of us: she’s spent her whole life terrified of anything that might upset her routine. Her boyfriend likes her because she is quiet and safe rather than challenging, and when she impulsively books tickets on the Eurostar for the two of them to spend a weekend in Paris, she finds herself alone on the train as her boyfriend doesn’t show up. Nell almost packs it in and goes home, especially when the hotel has double-booked her room and she has to share with a woman who snores loudly! On top of that, she spills wine on a charming waiter’s shoes during her meal for one. However, despite her fears, Nell stays in Paris, and even finds that the person she was sharing with left a pair of tickets to a prestigious art exhibition.

What Nell doesn’t expect is that she will run into the kindly waiter at the art exhibiton, and the waiter, Fabien (who is also a struggling writer) definitely doesn’t expect to get drawn into a relationship that will help him get past his recent heartbreak. Nell finds that she can be someone else with Fabien, someone she has always wanted to be, but she knows that soon the weekend will end and she will have to go back to being shy and anxious.

However, when her boyfriend turns up in Paris to surprise her, Nell has to make a choice: Parisian Nell, who is impulsive and passionate, or English Nell, who is responsible enough to go back to a life of frustration?

Paris for One isn’t an original idea – plenty of books have female characters going on a journey of self-discovery in a foreign country. However, it’s fun, short and I found myself drawn in. It’s easy to sympathise with Nell since so many of us have things we want to do in life but are too scared to try. Paris for One is a Quick Read, so it’s light and easy to zip through while you’re waiting for a class to begin or just when you need to take a self-care day. Run away to Paris with Nell and get swept off your feet by Fabien, art and the City of Lights – it’s a great pick-me-up on a grey and gloomy day!

Find Paris for One in our Quick Reads section, along with lots of other snappy and fun books that you can dive into without making a big commitment.

If you want more stories of female characters travelling the world and learning about themselves as they go…

Shirley Valentine (based on a play by Willy Russell) is the story of a fun-loving woman who speaks her mind but often feels trapped by her life in Liverpool and her unfulfilling marriage. When her friend Jane wins a trip for two to Greece, Shirley decides that it’s time to have some fun and agrees to go. Unfortunately, Jane swans off with a romantic fling as soon as they get there, leaving Shirley alone for the first time in years. I won’t spoil it, but one thing I like about this film is that the solution to Shirley’s troubles isn’t a new relationship but a new perspective on herself. Read our review of Educating Rita, another film based on Russell’s work, about a middle-aged woman who decides to get a degree with the Open University despite her difficulties with education in the past, and find Shirley Valentine in the BOOK ZONE at 822.91.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love and the 2010 film adaptation with Julia Roberts are brilliant to sink into if you want to follow a recent divorcee on her journey around the world, from Italy to Indonesia, as she learns about food, language, spirituality and love. We’ve reviewed the film here.

In frothy 1995 romantic comedy French Kiss, Meg Ryan stars as anxious Kate, who is so terrified of flying that she decides not to accompany her fiancé Charlie to Paris when he is going for a conference. Of course, he meets and falls for another woman in Paris, so Kate faces her fear to fly across to France and get him back. On the plane, she meets a French man called Luc (played by Kevin Kline) who also happens to be a thief trying to smuggle a diamond necklace past customs. Kate finds Luc irritating and a far cry from her Prince Charming, but she slowly comes to realise that maybe a fairy tale wasn’t what she wanted at all. Find French Kiss in the DVD LOBBY at 791.43.

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