Buying a Piece of Paris: A Memoir [NOOK Book]


Buying a Piece of Paris is a charming and witty love song to the most beautiful city in the world.

Paris has seduced many admirers, but for Ellie Nielsen it's true love. So deep is her infatuation that she'll only be satisfied with a little place to call her own. The object of her desire seems so simple: the sort of apartment she's seen a thousand times in magazines and movies. Something effortlessly charming, and quirky, and old-- and ...

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Buying a Piece of Paris: A Memoir

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Buying a Piece of Paris is a charming and witty love song to the most beautiful city in the world.

Paris has seduced many admirers, but for Ellie Nielsen it's true love. So deep is her infatuation that she'll only be satisfied with a little place to call her own. The object of her desire seems so simple: the sort of apartment she's seen a thousand times in magazines and movies. Something effortlessly charming, and quirky, and old-- and expertly decorated. Something exuding character and Parisian chic. Something quintessentially French.

Little does she realize that the French real estate scene is not quite the dreamscape she'd imagined. With two weeks to find and secure an apartment, and a cursory grasp of the language, Ellie embarks on a mad dash through the streets of Paris, negotiating the fraught world of snobby real estate agents, xenophobic bankers and perplexed Parisian naysayers. Thwarted at every turn, in the end it only makes her more determined to succeed.

With her trusty French phrasebook in hand, and plucked up reserves of savoir faire, Ellie undertakes the adventure of a lifetime. Beauty is everywhere even if, like all true romances, there are many obstacles to be overcome. But then, c'est toujours comme ça à Paris. Written with great verve and a superb ear for language, Buying a Piece of Paris is a joy to read and a pleasure to dream about.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Nielsen, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, takes the reader on her search for a dream apartment in Paris armed with only a limited ability to speak French but an enormous amount of hope. When Nielsen's husband agrees to buy their own pied-à-terre in Paris ("Even our accountant thinks it's a good idea"), she starts her crash course in the Parisian real estate market, a world away from her native Australia, in custom as well as distance. Entering her first real estate office, Nielsen encounters the particulars of buying a piece of Paris: apartments are sold by the meter, not by the number of rooms; a buyer generally makes an offer immediately after the first showing; and the current owner could be lingering in the dining room as the apartment is shown. From dark and crumbling to bright and strangely shaped, the apartments the Nielsens see are a side of Paris living they never knew existed; in the end, their dream comes true. Nielsen's breezy writing makes this a sweet memoir that would appeal most to those dreaming of having their own piece of Paris. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Looking for an enjoyable tribute to life in the City of Love? Try this memoir by Melbourne, Australia-based actress/publicist Nielsen. Nielsen loves Paris and wants to live there; fortunately, her husband Jack agrees. The couple's two-week whirlwind real-estate tour is liberally enhanced with reminiscences from previous visits as well as with a dash of trite, stock French phrases. Another Australian actress, Nicki Paull, provides a fun and focused reading of this entertaining, at times almost satirical ode to the ultimate French experience: buying a Parisian apartment. For listeners who appreciate lighthearted fare. [Audio clip available through; "Nielsen's tale is sweet," read the review of the St. Martin's hc. "Ultimately, however, the language issues make this an optional purchase," LJ 11/1/08.—Ed.]—Denise A. Garofalo, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Charming debut memoir traces an Australian woman's off-the-wall plan to become a local in the City of Light by way of real estate. For years, Nielsen dreamed of calling Paris home. During one visit, while gazing out a balcony window and fantasizing about ordering rabbit from a butcher shop in perfect French, an epiphany struck. She would buy an apartment, et voila-an outsider she would be no longer. She convinced her stubbornly realistic yet doting husband Jack to commit to the hunt, and off they went with son Ellery in tow. They were optimistic at first, each hazy lead inspiring visions of lofty windows, parquet floors, kitchens stocked with copper pots and redolent with the aroma of well-cooked duck souffle. A parade of real-estate agencies exposed them to Parisians' inimitable ways with conversation, culture and decorating-but no suitable apartment. Nielsen, who had romanticized France into an urbane Everest, saw each small real-estate setback as emblematic of a personal character flaw. Sundry friends and strangers reinforced her self-doubt. From Claude, the aunt of an acquaintance who exuded a regal elegance befitting Catherine Deneuve crossed with the Arc de Triomphe, to a grizzly sidewalk artist who painted with the same vivacity with which he addressed his patrons, everyone she met seemed to incarnate a Parisian essence to which she could only aspire. Nielsen's narrative describes multitudes of apartment showings, briefly interrupted by short, amusing recollections of trips that reinforced the depths of her commitment to la ville lumiere. Her love is not one of fleeting lust or random affection, but a more enduring emotion, and her persistence and dedication are finally rewardedwith an apartment on the rue de Rivoli. "My world is suddenly bigger," she writes. "From now on I'm part of two universes."A bubbly, delicious treat for anyone whose horizons aren't bounded by the ordinary. Agent: Markus Hoffmann/Regal Literary
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429948890
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/5/2010
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 406,287
  • File size: 295 KB

Meet the Author

Ellie Nielsen is the author of Buying a Piece of Paris. She has worked as an actress, publicist, curator and script assessor. After the birth of her son, she began writing, and dreaming of moving to Paris.

Ellie Nielsen is the author of Buying a Piece of Paris. She has worked as an actress, publicist, curator and script assessor. After the birth of her son, she began writing, and dreaming of moving to Paris.
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Read an Excerpt

OneI blame the butcher's shop -- the one across the street from the first apartment we rented in Paris. Every morning I stood in the window of the apartment, mesmerised by that shop. It was so elegant, so classical, so unlike a place that just sold ... flesh. I was dazzled by the graceful, tangled curves of art nouveau writing on the windows, by the door's fine framed-glass panels, and even by Monsieur who slowly polished his white-marble bench as though he was caressing a thigh. But this butcher's shop flaunted its insensible beauty only to mock me. In this shop there were no pre-packaged, take-home, pop-straight-in-the-microwave meat solutions. Here there were real animals -- with fur and heads and eyes -- meat that looked dead rather than not living. This was meat that demanded experience. French experience. It was experience that excluded me.It's true. I didn't understand French meat. And what I wanted, more than anything else in the world, was to walk into that butcher's shop and buy a piece of paradise. I wanted to say, 'Bonjour, monsieur' and have Monsieur say, 'Bonjour, madame'. And I wanted to be able to tell him, calmly and with some authority, that I would like half a rabbit (no, I don't need the head) and a few pieces of canette (female duck's legs) and some andouille. Whilst thanking Monsieur I would purse my lips, shrug a shoulder, and outline my weekend cooking-plans in flawless French.Of course, this could never happen. For a start, I am not in the habit of eating rabbits, headless or otherwise. When I purse my lips I look comical or intoxicated (depending on the time of day), and I cannot speak French. I am, however, greatly in the habit of imagining myself in all manner of situations that are outside my real, everyday life. So that day, almost four years ago, as I stood at my window, willing the street beyond to leap up two floors and embrace me, a plan popped into my head. It was a perfect plan, one that involved daring, danger, and a ridiculous amount of money. It was a plan that would show that butcher's shop who was who. I decided to buy Paris. Well, just a tiny bit of it. I'm not totally irrational. 
My husband, Jack, doesn't always see things the way I do. He would, for instance, prefer to listen to the cricket than to one of my brilliant ideas. We were back home in Melbourne driving to a friend's house for Sunday lunch when Waugh hit a six, and Jack hit the steering wheel and turned the radio up even louder.'That's it,' I said. 'You never listen to a word I say.''Yes I do.' But his attention remained fixed on the cricket. 'You were talking about Paris.'I sighed rather than answered. It was mystifying the way Jack always knew what I was talking about even when he wasn't listening. He turned the radio down a bit and raised an eyebrow at me.'Well', he said, 'I think you're right. I think we should look at buying an apartment in Paris.''What? What do you mean "look at"?' I squinted at him. The sun was criss-crossing the car.'Alright. Buy one. I think that maybe we could buy one. A very small one.''Really'? I let the sun embrace me. Very small was perfect. More than perfect. We could buy a very small apartment in Paris. There was magic in that sentence.'It's not as crackpot as some of your ideas,' said Jack grinning, pleased with his surprise. 'But,' he continued as he lent to turn the radio up again 'it'll be up to you. You'll have to do all the work. See the agents. Work out the system. We'll be there in six weeks. You can have a go at it then.'I took my sunglasses off and smiled across at him. He beamed back at me. 'Even our accountant thinks it's a good idea.''Wow.''See,' he added 'I was listening.' He turned the cricket up to screaming point.I sat staring straight ahead thinking, this is it. This is one of those moments I'll remember for the rest of my life.BUYING A PIECE OF PARIS. Copyright © 2007 by Ellie Nielsen. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
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