Paris Letters

( 7 )

Overview

Finding love and freedom in a pen, a paintbrush...and Paris

How much money does it take to quit your job?

Exhausted and on the verge of burnout, Janice poses this questions to herself as she doodles on a notepad at her desk. Surprisingly, the answer isn't as daunting as she expected. With a little math and a lot of determination, Janice cuts back, saves up, and buys herself two years of freedom in Europe.

A ...

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Paris Letters

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Overview

Finding love and freedom in a pen, a paintbrush...and Paris

How much money does it take to quit your job?

Exhausted and on the verge of burnout, Janice poses this questions to herself as she doodles on a notepad at her desk. Surprisingly, the answer isn't as daunting as she expected. With a little math and a lot of determination, Janice cuts back, saves up, and buys herself two years of freedom in Europe.

A few days into her stop in Paris, Janice meets Christophe, the cute butcher down the street—who doesn't speak English. Through a combination of sign language and franglais, they embark on a whirlwind Paris romance. She soon realizes that she can never return to the world of twelve-hour workdays and greasy corporate lingo. But her dwindling savings force her to find a way to fund her dreams again. So Janice turns to her three loves—words, art, and Christophe—to figure out a way to make her happily-ever-after in Paris last forever.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/02/2013
Feeling trapped and unfulfilled in her copywriting job, MacLeod began a process she hoped would transform her life. Within several months of pledging to write three pages a day in her journal, a question bubbles up: “How much money does it take to quit your job?… I needed to figure out how to save up enough money to fund my own sabbatical, or even better, get out of my job.” MacLeod (The Dating Repair Kit) contemplates the multitude of ways she can save or make $100 a day toward her goal for financial independence. She reassesses her spending habits and devises a plan for whittling down spending and boosting her savings. With her financial makeover successful, MacLeod leaves her corporate life in the States behind departing for two years of European travel. MacLeod sheds her vegan menu choices, falls in love with a butcher, and discovers what makes her happy. She decides to sell painted letters depicting her life in Paris through a subscription service, and with that, she creates a cash flow for her daily life. “I would create a painted letter, copy it, personalize each copy, and mail them off to people who love fun mail.” MacLeod engagingly takes readers on her personal odyssey, and offers them a sweet reminder of the joy found in learning to make your life one you really love. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-24
The story of an advertising copywriter in California who found love in Paris and turned letter writing into art. After a decade writing the sort of junk mail inserts that usually go directly from post box to garbage can, Canadian author MacLeod (co-author: The Dating Repair Kit: How to Have a Fabulous Love Life, 2007, etc.) was nearing burnout. At age 34, single and lonely, she was clinging to the middle management rung at a corporate advertising agency instead of pursing her dream of traveling and creating art. In a memoir that also serves as a self-help guide, she recounts how her journey out of cubicle-land began with a single question: "How much money does it take to quit your job?" Her answer proved deceptively simple: save or not spend $100 per day for a year. With her belongings whittled down to one suitcase and a small set of watercolors, she set off for Europe. At her first stop in Paris, she flirted with a butcher who looked like actor Daniel Craig. His English was as poor as her French, but of course, love speaks a universal language. Other stops on her tour included Edinburgh and Rome before she discovered how to finance more time with her James Bond in Paris. Inspired by the framed painted letters by the English artist Percy Kelly on the walls of her cousin's cottage in Yorkshire, she opened an online shop to sell personalized letters with drawings of her own travels. Several are included in the book and serve as inspiration for others longing for adventure. Borrowing a technique from her former advertising career, MacLeod provides a list of 100 tips to plot your own escape. A romantic romp from Santa Monica to Paris with loads of advice on how to live minimally and take risks in life and love.
From the Publisher
"A romantic romp from Santa Monica to Paris with loads of advice on how to live minimally and take risks in life and love." —-Kirkus
Library Journal
03/01/2014
In a similar vein to Under the Tuscan Sun or Eat, Pray, Love, this book follows a woman as she travels abroad and finds both herself and love. MacLeod (The Dating Repair Kit) hated her advertising job and decided to determine how much money she needed to quit. Obeying her sage internal voice (dubbed "Mr. Miyagi" after The Karate Kid's teacher), she gets rid of her excess belongings, stays in more frequently, saves money, and dreams of Paris. After finally quitting her job she sets off on her big adventure. Once in Paris, friendships, adventures, and even love emerge, as it always seems to when memoirists quit their jobs and move to Europe. A relationship develops, despite the language barrier she and her "butcher amore" face. The engaging addition of the author's letters, complete with lovely drawings, is a nice touch. This aspect ties in to the Etsy business that enables her to remain in Paris longer with Christophe, penning personalized illustrated letters to online subscribers. MacLeod now paints and writes full time. VERDICT An entertaining, if not quite original, tale of the joys that come from risking everything to change your life. Recommended for those who enjoy similar travel memoirs and the romance of Paris.—Katie Lawrence, Chicago
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402288791
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/4/2014
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 116,585
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Janice MacLeod creates letters about Paris, paints them, personalizes them, and sends out monthly to adoring fans. A former advertising copywriter and associate creative director, she co-authored The Breakup Repair Kit and followed it with The Dating Repair Kit. Together, they have been translated into a handful of languages and have sold more than 27,000 copies.
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Read an Excerpt

1

We Met at a Café in Paris

"I'm in love with the butcher," I told Summer. We were sitting outside Shakespeare & Company, an English bookstore on the Left Bank, just beyond the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

"That was fast. I thought you were vegan?"

"I was. I am. But I'm in Paris."

Paris, it seems, was the beginning of letting go of who I was and grabbing hold of who I was to become. It was the spring of 2011. I had recently left my job and my life in Los Angeles and booked three months to traipse around Europe. Six weeks in Paris, three weeks in the United Kingdom, the rest in Italy.

"Is he in love with you too?" she asked.

"We haven't spoken." I hesitated. "But the other day when I ordered my coffee at the café across from his shop, we locked eyes. Yesterday, when I walked by, I said Bonjour and he said Bonjour back. And this morning, I said the same and he replied with Bonjour, mademoiselle."

"Progress!" She laughed and slapped my shoulder like she was my oldest and dearest friend, instead of what she really was, someone I met at the airport baggage claim at Charles de Gaulle a few days before. Summer had approached me and asked if I'd ever taken the train to the city center. I said I hadn't but I was going to figure it out. She grabbed her bag off the belt and said she'd follow me. After an hour on the train, we had decided to spend a few days navigating our way around Paris together during the week she was here. Paris was a big town, and it would be nice to have someone with whom I could get my bearings.

She had a loud, raspy roughness about her that made me wince, but even the ones you don't like, you like better in Paris. When you travel, you release the usual hang-ups because you need to cling together in the face of a foreign culture. Making friends on the road is a mix of sympathy and surrender. This friend looked like she had always been on the Blond Ambition Tour. Her long blond extensions fell perfectly down her back, her big blue eyes were topped with long eyelash extensions, and her lip gloss glistened in the warm spring sunshine.

"Why don't you talk to him?" she asked as we perused les livres on the sales rack outside the bookstore. She wanted to buy a book and get it stamped with the bookstore's famous logo as a souvenir.

"No way. What if he speaks French back? If he said more than ‘Bonjour, mademoiselle' to me, I'd stare back with my tongue in knots." I was required to take French in elementary school and high school in Canada, but I spoke French to other English-speaking students and we only read what was in our livre. Here in France, they could say anything, and I was not prepared for anything.

"What does he look like?" She was flipping through a French cookbook.

My butcher boyfriend bore a striking resemblance to Daniel Craig. He had light brown hair and the blue eyes of mystics and madmen. His striped shirt was rolled up past his elbows, revealing the beginning of a tattoo. Each morning, he would lift a spit of chickens from the top of the rotisserie and lean it against the table. He slid them off one by one with a long fork, piling them in a pyramid on the warmer. He and his sexy jeans would then bend down to stir up the potatoes that were roasting in drippings at the bottom of the oven. When that was done, he would stand up, lean against the wall, look my way, and smile.

I felt steam.

"So do I," Summer said, fanning herself. "Where is this café?"

It was on rue Mouffetard, the city's oldest market street. From there, I could watch the parade of people and pooches picking up morsels from each shop along the cobblestone street. In one direction, I spotted two wine shops, two fish shops, and a fruit market. In the other direction, two bakeries, two bistros, and another fruit market. And directly across from me, a butcher shop featuring a blue-eyed James Bond.

"I can't talk to him," I said. "I could hardly even order a coffee in French."

• • •

On my first morning at the café, the waiter came by to take my order.

"Café latte, s'il vous plaît," I sputtered.

"Café crème," he corrected.

I nodded and blushed. This would be my first of thousands of linguistic corrections in Paris. A café latte is about the same as a café crème, but this isn't Italy or Starbucks. Steve Martin once joked that the French have a different word for everything. And here, it's not latte. It's crème.

Sitting with my crème, I pulled out my journal to write. It was March 2011, and I had been keeping a daily journal for the last fourteen months. But on this day, for the first time, I had nothing to write.

I looked up at the butcher. He looked over at me.

I blushed. He did not.

I picked up my pen and began:

Dear Monsieur Boucher,

I wish I could speak French.

I would ask you many questions. How did you come to stand outside la boucherie all day selling chickens? Do your feet get tired? Your back? Your arms? How do you keep your mind occupied? How do you feel about everyone walking along and you staying in one spot? When you look down at your phone, are you looking for a text from a girl? Where do you go at the end of the day? Are you going to meet her? Has anyone ever told you that you look like Daniel Craig?

I imagine that you follow a sports team passionately and that the friends you have are friends you've had for life. I imagine they are good people. You seem like a good person.

I watch you smile at children. You lean down to hear little old ladies. You shake hands with men. You check me out.

I wish you could sit with me here at the café. You would speak French. I would speak English. We would not understand each other, but we would grin and offer up sheepish smiles.

We could take a lifetime to piece together a conversation. It would be nice.

Bonsoir, mon ami mystérieux,

Janice

"You wrote the butcher a letter?" said Summer. We were squeezing our way through the crowded bookstore. "Did you give it to him?"

I shook my head. Instead of giving him the letter, I had tucked it into my purse, paid for my coffee, and struck out for the day.

"Give it to him. You could score two weeks of kisses along the Seine!" she said. "Isn't that what you're here for? That's why I'm here. I'd love a little French romance on my Parisian adventure."

My plan here in Paris sounded lame by comparison. I was here to take pretty photos for my blog and to warm up my language skills. Three days in, I was able to order my crème with my waiter and say Bonjour to the butcher. Progress? I sighed. "We don't even speak the same language. It would end like it always ends."

"Or not," she said.

I hadn't considered that option before. That it could not end. I thought of my letter. I didn't know at the time that the letter full of questions for the butcher would lead to a lot of answers.

Books were piled to the rafters and in messy stacks along the stairs. Some were new, most were Gently Used, according to the sticker on the bindings. Sometimes, you could even pick up an old book and discover that it had been signed by the author to George Whitman, the original owner of the store.

George found himself in Paris after World War II. He hadn't been too eager to return to America, so he enrolled at the Sorbonne University to study French. During his studies, he had amassed a rather large collection of English books. If you've ever studied language in a foreign country, you know that you should immerse yourself fully and turn away from your mother tongue in order to get the new language to stick in your head. But what often happens is that you become even more eager to read books in your own language, find friends of your own language, and do all you can to rest your brain from the mental pushups of learning the new language. Eventually, George had amassed so many English books that he decided to open an English bookstore. He soon expanded to digs on the bank of the Seine where it sits today, welcoming rebelling French language students and English writers for over fifty years.

Summer bought a book about the history of burlesque in Paris. I thought back to the butcher and bought a French-English dictionary.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2014

    Absolutely delightful!

    I read a lot of books about Paris. The place is really high on my bucket list. This one is all the more enjoyable because it's a true story; it makes one think that anyone can save money, quit their job, and go on an extended vacation that ends up being a new life.

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  • Posted August 6, 2014

    This is a book about finding your bliss, creating a more enjoyab

    This is a book about finding your bliss, creating a more enjoyable life and living your dreams. It has wonderful descriptions of landmarks in Paris. Their is a bit of romance too. Loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    Quote from Difinit€

    "Love is a disease" on April 9, 2014

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. MacLeod is a talented and inter

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. MacLeod is a talented and interesting writer and although I have not seen her drawings, it seems like she is a talented artist as well. (My eBook would not display the pages with the letter drawings, so I have decided to buy the actual book, I liked it that well.) “Paris Letters” to me had the same feel as Peter Mayle’s books about his life in Provence. MacLeod’s “Paris Letters” didn’t read like a blog but a very real and interesting story of her life after taking the plunge of quitting her job and traveling. It’s a true story and how many would have the courage and nerve to do that. If you enjoy reading interesting stories about real people, you will love this book. (I received the eBook for a limited time from NetGallery for my truthful opinion.) I loved it and hope she writes more!

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  • Posted February 10, 2014

    Loved this book! So sweet, the young woman who wrote it and the

    Loved this book! So sweet, the young woman who wrote it and the love affair she experienced. So nice that she was able to change her life. My only reasons for granting four not five stars are the typo's and a bit o choppiness because the book emanates from the author's blog.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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