Unhappy with your life decisions? Feeling unloved? Want a change? Paris is the answer, according to Eleanor Brown in her second novel – The Light of Paris. With alternate chapters telling the story of Madeleine, a frustrated artist with frizzy hair, and Margie, her grandmother who is sent on the world tour to escape being an old maid at twenty-four, Brown focuses on the life changing decisions of both. Separated by a generation, both face the consequences of choosing – is it better to be safe and do what is expected or follow the riskier path to your own bliss? Both women are determined to escape the low expectations of family and friends.
Brown uses old letters to reveal Margie’s secrets from the nineteen twenties when she spends three months in Paris, after refusing her parents’s choice for her husband. Of course she finds romance – this is Paris – and her life neatly reverts to type when she gets pregnant. But during those glorious months when Margie finds herself, Brown uses vivid descriptions of the city and the people who used Paris as their muse to counter the triteness of the story line. Margie discovers Paris in one of the best times to be there.
As she is reading her grandmother’s letters, Madeleine is struggling with her own demons. After years in an unhappy marriage with a controlling husband (he tells her she’s fat and won’t let her eat chocolate – grounds for divorce right there), she returns to her childhood home just as her mother has decided to sell it. Making peace with memories of her miserable youth lead her to an epiphany – life is too short to waste trying to be something you are not.
Without the quick wit and Shakespearean quotes of her first novel, The Weird Sisters, this book falls a little short. But with heady romance and life altering role modeling, The Light in Paris delivers a quick easy read. It is Paris, after all – too bad we can’t all solve our problems by running off to be there.