The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris by Evie Gaughan

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Hellllllo readers, and welcome to another review from yours truly. I cannot believe how many books I’m churning through. It reminds me of a scene in the film ‘About Time.’ If you haven’t seen it (you should) the film follows a family line where all the males can enter a dark space and they can return to an earlier point in time. I adore the line where Bill Nighy’s character tells his son and when asked what he does with said ‘gift,’ he states he’s read everything at least twice. I wish I had the power but unfortunately I’m just going to have to keep whipping through; book by book. Today’s is a buttery tale that made me feel super sweet; a beautiful tale and one I really enjoyed.

This is the magical tale of Edith Lane, who sets off to find her fortune in the beautiful city of Paris. Fortune, however, is a fickle thing and Edith ends up working in a vintage bakery in the positively antique town of Compiègne. Escaping heartache and singledom in Ireland, Edith discovers that the bakery on Rue De Paris is not exactly what it seems and that some ghosts from the past are harder to escape than others. A heart-warming story that is sure to appeal to all of the senses, The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris is a mouth-watering journey of love, liberty and la vie en rose.

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First things first; mystery, bakery, Paris; how could you not want to pick up this darling novel and dip in and out of this story. Those three things instantly got me itching to read and the cover is sublime. As the blurb suggests the book follows Edith who, throwing caution to the wind, decides to apply for a bakery in Paris. On arrival things aren’t quite how they seem; she’s in Compiègne rather than Paris, her boss Madame Moreau is a little unfriendly and there is a little mystery surrounding the bakery. Why is unable to go down to see where the sumptuous products are created? Throw in the mysterious photographer Hugo and it’s getting a little worrying. Will this move to Paris be the move she’s always wanted? Or would she have been better staying in Dublin. All will be revealed.

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I really adored this book; I thought it was well constructed with a real understanding of how to build a plot-line. The characters are strong and loveable even the slightly stroppy Madame Moreau; each is built with a different set of characteristics which help the story to take form and shape. In terms of our main female protagonist she starts a little waiflike but as her French improves and she settles in her gutsy nature really starts to shine. I also adored Nicole who befriends Edith, her drive and tenacity mixed with her sweet nature was wonderful to read. Hugo is a dashing fellow and I thought his romantic touches were darling.

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I must admit the magical/mystery touch did take me a little while to warm to although no spoilers here as to what happens in the end. For me it felt a little inauthentic but the enchanting writing of the books as a whole it did fit in and I thought it was well integrated. I also felt that we found out the mystery too quickly and it could have been pulled apart more as to build the tension. As such an important part of the story it needed a bit more time. The writing style was honestly delightful; the descriptions of France, the idyllic little village and the delicious pastries the writing moved with pace and style; I really did feel transported inside the fictional world.

Overall this is a gorgeous book of love, wit, determination and pastry and from page one I knew that I would want to come back to this writer. It really is a cracking read with attention to detail and a real understanding of how to construct characters. If the mystery has been lingered on a little more I think I would have enjoyed the build-up more but a delightful read.

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Giovanni’s Room: James Baldwin

101 things in 1001 days

Some books in terms of reading ultimately prove to be a little bit of a struggle and that is definitely true of today’s book review. It’s an understatement to say that despite my strong early lead in reading and reviewing all things classic the last two have proven a little more difficult. It’s not that they are complex in terms of storyline or that the characters or the writing style are woefully written but instead it has been that the focus of the story has felt a little lost or muddled. However I’ve struggled through and the ending really pulled everything together especially with today’s review. Notably today’s review will also be a very positive one and a recommendation to everyone to read this rather sublime book.

David a young American in 1950’s Paris is waiting for his fiancée to return from vacation in Spain. But when he meets Giovanni, a handsome Italian barman, the two men are drawn into an intense affair. After three months David’s fiancée returns and, denying his true nature, David rejects Giovanni for a ‘safe’ future as a married man his decision eventually brings tragedy.

This book is a tale of longing, love, hope, despair, confusion, deceit and regret, with the book ultimately revolving around the ill-fated love triangle between David, Giovanni and Hella. Both David and Giovanni are beautifully described; Giovanni is a passionate, romantic Italian who wears his heart on his sleeve. He is both dark and brooding and comedic and flirtatious. David is more forthright with his want to quash his feelings for Giovanni (symbolised most strongly in the use of the room that they share together.) However he is also quietly passionate and insecure in himself as a person. David as the blurb states is set on having a safe future, notably not with Giovanni however he finds it difficult to convince himself that his feelings are false and the love that he feels for him is both blistering and sexually driven. The supporting characters although well described are fleeting and moved on quickly giving snippets of information and swatches of personality to colour the descriptions of Paris. Several of the secondary characters including David’s father, Jacques, and Guillaume take on a more dominant role and they are equally built with different character profiles.

So in terms of the writing it is incredibly elegant and self-assured simultaneously mixing the French and English language throughout adding not only a sense of style but also helps to place the writing straight in the bars of the back streets of beautiful Paris. The writing style is stunningly described and it builds beautifully pulling the reader through the seedy bars of Paris, the description mingling with the passionate dialogue between David and Giovanni. In terms of style it mixes the cold accurate eye of Bukowski with the the dreamy and starry-eyed style of Orwell. The imagery and symbolism is intelligently written seen most pivotally in the use of the room that to me symbolises David’s inability to express his true feelings that ultimately lead to Giovanni’s downfall. The love triangle is a constant pulling and pushing of the three, Giovanni desperate to escape the room with David, David’s want to escape his own sexuality but we see he cannot stop himself from wanting and needing Giovanni.

My only critique is that I found the beginning tough to get into. It was one those books where I read the first chapter but ultimately didn’t really take anything in, went back and started all over again. It took me a little while to really get submersed in the book at the start as it’s difficult to see where the plot is going and I found it difficult to get myself involved. However, the second half of the book really takes off and once I was through the start I fell for this book very quickly. The ending is stunning, heart-breaking, distressing and honest. It left my heart racing and a little emotional. It pulls everything together but the imagery and the symbolism leave everything unsaid. It’s an incredibly subtle but intelligent ending.

When choosing the books to review for my classics challenge I wanted to pick novels that would teach me about classic writing and the symbolism in this book is stunningly written. It’s something that I think you need to experience rather than me spelling it out to you so I’m going to leave it at that. The mixture of personal freedom and sexuality are mixed perfectly but subtly to create raw and honest book with a beautifully harrowing ending.

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Down and Out in Paris and London: George Orwell

101 things in 1001 days

Afternoon readers, another 101 things in 1001 days post but also a book review. Since becoming more of an avid reader I have continued to manage avoiding reading many of the ‘classic’ pieces of literature. I’ve always been one to pick more contemporary writers and books and this has become more so because of my review requests page. However, when writing my list of things to do I thought it might be beneficial to me as a reader to sit down and read a number of classics. I did a little research and listed down a number to try so there will be a number of these reviews in the coming month. Today’s came to both ease me in and so I could read more from George Orwell. Although I enjoyed 1984 it hasn’t stuck with me as a book I need to read again I was intrigued to read more from the famous author. Thank goodness I did because this has just lodged itself in my top ten list of books. Let me transport you to the slums of Paris and London.

George Orwell’s vivid memoir of his time living among the desperately poor and destitute, Down and Out in Paris and London is a moving tour of the underworld of society from the author of 1984, published with an introduction by Dervla Murphy in Penguin Modern Classics. ‘You have talked so often of going to the dogs – and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them.’ Written when Orwell was a struggling writer in his twenties, it documents his ‘first contact with poverty’. Here, he painstakingly documents a world of unrelenting drudgery and squalor – sleeping in bug-infested hostels and doss houses of last resort, working as a dishwasher in Paris’s vile ‘Hôtel X’, surviving on scraps and cigarette butts, living alongside tramps, a star-gazing pavement artist and a starving Russian ex-army captain. Exposing a shocking, previously-hidden world to his readers, Orwell gave a human face to the statistics of poverty for the first time – and in doing so, found his voice as a writer.

One word to describe this book is grubby although that wouldn’t come close to convey the lyrical writing style of this wonderful book. The book follows Orwell as he struggles to find his feet in the back streets of firstly Paris and in the second part of the book also London. Largely autobiographic the book documents Orwell living in the bowels of a number of different hotels in Paris. Sweating over the hot stoves and desperately washing pots and pans for his superiors we get to visit poverty from a real life perspective. We learn about the lack of hygiene in the smartest of Paris hotels and the everyday poverty that Orwell faced, often both starving and exhausted. The writing is beautifully written, both romantic and utterly gritty I was immediately transported to the dirty soiled hotels of Paris.

The characters are incredibly well built, Boris is the star of the first part of the book that focuses on Paris. He leaps from the page both in his speech and the way in which Orwell describes him, but no matter who we come into contact with along the way Orwell gives us so much detail you cannot help but be transported to the poverty stricken streets. The second part of the book takes us to the dreary roads of London where Orwell intermingles with the tramps of the city and tells a similar story. However the book is lively and Orwell describes the camaraderie of the two cities with a bohemian style of love and freedom. The writing style is dark but humorous, from the descriptions of the grimy sharing of rooms with a vivid number of characters to the boarding houses and homeless hostels named spikes in London. Although gloomier in London the tales are none the less both interesting and informative. I have never read a book quite so good at describing the atmosphere of poverty, hunger , dirt and dismay with so much hope and understanding.

We also often get a philosophical side to the writing, often razor sharp and riddled with humour which is rather surprising seeing the desperate situation of the author and the people he finds himself in the company of. The book is written as though Orwell was alive and well now, telling us these stories of characters such as Bozo the street screever or pavement artist in the most destitute of situations and yet so hopeful for the future. Or Paddy the tramp who even when suffering with the most stomach turning of hunger refuses to steal a bottle of milk from a doorstep. It is quite a wonderful way of telling a tale and on the train to Milton Keynes I became utterly submerged in the story from the very beginning.

Overall this is a tale of poverty, hunger, destitution and pain but it is a wonderfully honest and uplifting tale. Orwell brings these people and stories to life with such beautifully honest prose that I almost felt the stony floors of the London spikes and the drunken tales from the Parisian bars. A stunner of a book and one I cannot wait to read again.

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