Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book Review: A Passion for Paris

A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light (2015)
Written by David Downie
320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Paris is a city that Western culture has long been fascinated by. For me, it has been near the top of the list on places to visit. From the sidewalk bistros to the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame to the Louvre, there are so many iconic places to visit. About eight years ago, I was in Charles de Gaulle airport on a layover to Italy and I was taken aback by how the airport looked. Were it not for the French signage, there would have been little way of knowing I was in Paris.

David Downie's book is a terrific tour guide to parts of Paris that are sometimes off the beaten path. Using the era of Romanticism and his own interest in photography as a starting point, Downie takes readers on a photo tour to places that Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas would have populated.

I admit, my knowledge of the Romantic period is little, so some of the key figures' importance didn't quite connect with me as it would someone who knows the period well. However, I particularly liked the chapter on Notre Dame Cathedral and its influence on Victor Hugo writing The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Downie also explains the cathedral's connection to the Pantheon, where Hugo is entombed.

I typically do not recommend specific versions of a book, but I cannot emphasize enough to read this on a color e-reader or hardcover. Downie has terrific photographs in his book, but my review copy was on a Kindle Paperwhite, so all of the photos were in black and white.

Rating: 4/5 stars. Fans and students of the Romantic era will appreciate the book more, but nevertheless, it is a wonderfully written photographic history of Paris.

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