Weekend in Paris, by Robyn Sisman, may not be great literature, and it may be fluffy, but it is great fun, very enjoyable and, best of all, it's about Paris! And therein lies its strength, because it really does conjure up the atmosphere of the city, leaving you with a kaleidoscope of images and impressions that make you yearn to be there, sipping coffee in a pavement cafe, or strolling along the banks of the Seine. And that's why I've chosen this book as part of my Paris in July 'trip' for the challenge being hosted by Karen from BookBath and Tamara from Thyme For Tea.
On the day she is due to fly to Paris on a business trip with her boss, sensible, cautious Molly Clearwater walks out when he calls her a stupid secretary and, on the spur of the moment, buys a ticket for the next train to Paris. Fortunately she has her suitcase, passport and Euros, as well as Bertie the Badger (her childhood cuddly toy) – and the computer disc containing the vital information her boss needs for his presentation at a medical conference. But she has no idea where she will stay, and her knowledge of Paris is gleaned from writers like Nancy Mitford and George Orwell.
Rescued by an extrovert, rollerblading Australian girl, Molly sets off on a whirlwind weekend in Paris which will change her outlook on life for ever. She has a night out at a club on a boat on the Seine; zooms around the city on the back of a scooter driven by a dashing French art student, with whom, of course, she falls in love, and helps Alicia the Australian track down her stolen rollerblades. Meanwhile, her boss is trying to track her down to recover his missing disc, and there's a strange man who seems to pop up everywhere she goes. Things get even more complicated when Molly's over-protective, hippy-ish, gardening mother turns up and is introduced to the art student's wealthy sophisticated father.
As you can see from this, the plot romps along at a fast and furious pace, but it's not a conventional romance, and I rather liked the ending, which was not quite what I was expecting. Molly herself is a very engaging heroine, and the novel is not badly written, but it's the descriptions of Paris which really bring it to to life. There's an unforgettable view of Notre Dame floating on the water, a glimpse of hidden streets of Montmartre well off the usual tourist trail, the Eiffel Tower seen in the early the early morning, and a waiter dusting wicker chairs with a flick of his cloth as he sets them out for the day ahead.
There's a wonderful account of St Sulpice, with its Italianate colonnades and arches, and the ornate fountain with its sculpted stone lions in the square outside the church. And Sisman really brings the Jardin du Luxembourg to life as she writes about men playing boules, a girl on a pony and boys sailing their boats on the big central pool. There are people strolling, playing chess, and reading books, and even a woman doing her t'ai chi exercises, as well as the statues, the palms, the palace and the gravel paths. The gardens are one of my favourite spots in Paris, so perhaps I'm biased, but I think Susman captured the spirit of the place.
Anyway, if you want a nice, easy, feel-good read, set in Paris, then read this – preferably whilst eating a large style of gateau, or a croissant with butter and apricot jam, with a glass of wine or cup of freshly made black coffee!