Paris Was Ours: 32 Writers Reflect on the City of Light

by Penelope Rowlands

Paris Was Ours: 32 Writers Reflect on the City of Light

Paris Was Ours is about the transformative effect of living in the French capital. It answers the question that I, as the book's editor, asked myself when I dreamed up the idea: Why of all the places I've lived, did Paris affect me the most? It's a sober and very contemporary look at the city and one, for the most part, untouched by francophilia.

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Paris is "the world capital of memory and desire," concludes one of the writers in this wonderfully intimate and insightful collection of memoirs of the city. To have lived in Paris changed them forever.

In thirty-two personal essays, more than half of which have never been published before, the writers describe how they were seduced by Paris, and then began to see things differently. They came to write, to cook, to find love, to study, to raise children, to escape, or to live like in the French movies; they came from the United States, Canada and England, from Iran, Iraq, and Cuba -- and a few, from other parts of France. And they stayed, not as tourists but for a long time -- some are still living there. They were diverse outsiders who became insiders, who here share their observations and revelations. Several are well-known writers, though one, a homeless French blogger, hardly considers herself to be a writer at all.

Together, their words add up to an unusually perceptive and multifaceted portrait, like a cubist painting. Paris is entrancing, at times exasperating, but always fascinating. Their stories are unique but also remind us that Paris belongs to everyone who it has touched, and to each in a different way.