The Light of Paris is partly set in Jazz Age Paris and this was a big part of the reason why I bought this book. I wanted something light-hearted and descriptive after having read a fair amount of crime drama. I was expecting something fluffy, but hoping I wouldn’t get bored.
The novel tells the story of Madeleine, a middle aged woman who has found herself in an unhappy marriage and living a very unsatisfactory life after being pressured to settle down by her family. As she returns home to have some time away from her husband, she discovers her Grandmothers old diary’s and letters in the attic. Reading these, Madeleine is transported to Paris and her Grandmothers own attempt to escape the expectations of the society in which they live amongst the upper class of small town America.
The Light of Paris is descriptive and very well written, if not entirely original. I enjoyed the movement between the two time periods though I did feel more interested in Margie than Madeleine, which is always a danger when books have more than one narrative stream. I also found there was a lack of plot. The problems and decisions were mainly to do with Madeleine’s thought process, rather than the intervention of the outside world. Margie has far more ‘get up and go’ than Madeleine, in fact I found Madeleine a frustrating character who seemed to have allowed herself to get into the rut she was in and I struggled to like her and want to know what she would do next.
I do think the points made about making choices for ourselves and the changes to opportunities women are able to access is very well thought through in this novel. However there just wasn’t enough at stake or enough twists and turns for my liking. I did really enjoy the passages about Paris, but there just wasn’t enough. I felt like I was promised something in the blurb that didn’t quite come to fruition within the book.
Spoiler Alert Here – Overall an enjoyable read, but just not enough plot and interest to sustain the beautiful description. The ending was good and I really liked Margie and the characters she came across, but Madeleines experiences were just too run of the mill, I felt as though the story ended with her where I wanted to start which is frustrating. I know they say not to tell the reader too much, but ending with the character heading off to Paris was a strange waste of an opportunity to contrast Jazz Age Paris with a more modern Paris, a real shame as this could have been a really fantastic read.