A missing person, a grieving family, a curious clue: a half-finished manuscript set in Paris
Once a week, I chase men who are not my husband. . . .
When eccentric novelist Robert Eady abruptly vanishes, he leaves behind his wife, Leah, their daughters, and, hidden in an unexpected spot, plane tickets to Paris.
Hoping to uncover cluesand her husbandLeah sets off for France with her girls. Upon their arrival, she discovers an unfinished manuscript, one Robert had been writing without her knowledge . . . and that he had set in Paris. The Eady girls follow the path of the manuscript to a small, floundering English-language bookstore whose weary proprietor is eager to sell. Leah finds herself accepting the offer on the spot.
As the family settles into their new Parisian life, they trace the literary paths of some beloved Parisian classics, including Madeline and The Red Balloon, hoping more clues arise. But a series of startling discoveries forces Leah to consider that she may not be ready for what solving this mystery might do to her familyand the Paris she thought she knew.
Charming, haunting, and triumphant, Paris by the Book follows one woman's journey as she writes her own story, exploring the power of family and the magic that hides within the pages of a book.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.97(d)|
About the Author
Liam Callanan is a novelist, teacher, and journalist, whose first novel, The Cloud Atlas, was a finalist for an Edgar Award. Winner of the George W. Hunt, S.J., Prize for Excellence in Journalism, Arts and Letters, Liam has published in the Wall Street Journal, Slate, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and has recorded numerous essays for public radio. He's taught for the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and he lives in Wisconsin with his wife and daughters.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from "Paris by the Book"
Copyright © 2019 Liam Callanan.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Far from being a quiet story about the life of a Paris bookstore, this story is about the disappearance of a father and husband, and the family’s search to find him, or clues about why he left. Months after the eccentric Robert disappeared, his wife Leah and her daughthers are still finding clues – the most important being airline tickets to Paris. Armed with questions and curiosity, the women head off to Paris to start their search. When an unfinished manuscript leads them to a failing English-language bookstore with an owner desperate to sell, they dive into life in Paris, purchase the store and plan to follow trails to find Robert. Laden with literary references and much insider knowledge of the publishing industry, Callanan manages to incorporate some lovely vignettes of Paris, giving the story a sense of place that is unlike any I’ve ever read. These passages read much like a love letter to the city – well and lesser known places, often off the beaten track and frequently harkening back to beloved classic Parisian books. And while I loved the references and passages, their inclusion served to overwhelm the forward progress of the novel, as the Eadys search for Robert. I also thought that readers not familiar with Madeline and the Red Balloon, or the others, would miss many of the connections made between the books and the women’s search. With all of the inclusions, the pacing and the underlying mystery thread tended to get lost in what felt like a puzzle without clear borders: issues from family loyalty to the power of love, the unfinished manuscript seeming to mirror their movements and lives, and even a serious frustration with Leah as she seemed to be caught in an 18 year web of dysfunction and seriously unwilling and lacking in the courage to just say – enough. This opportunity for a new life, new places and happiness were all too easily accepted without actually making the moves to embrace them…. Far from what I expected and less offered in terms of the mystery presented, the story was atmospheric if a bit cluttered with information and passages that felt unnecessary and perhaps a bit contrived. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Very interesting... different...compelling
Paris by the Book starts so well. Liam Callanan is a gifted writer and even though the story was slow paced I didn’t care. I flew through the early chapters in the warm glow of the descriptions of their life as a young couple and then of Leah and the girls as they settled into life in Paris. Callanan has written in the first person from Leah’s perspective and he frequently uses a technique whereby we follow her thoughts for a paragraph or two set in the midst of other action. Instead of interrupting the flow I felt this was a fair reflection of how the human brain operates, especially when it is recalling events. The principal storyline is the familiar tale of a family left to survive after the husband and father has disappeared with no warning or explanation; a tragic theme that has been reworked on many occasions. Naturally this invokes the expected self-questioning by Leah accompanied by guilt that she has let her husband and children down in some way. Unfortunately for me the magic of Paris by the Book did not continue. After a few mildly interesting events in Paris, Leah’s introspection started to drag me down. The story, such as it was, took some odd twists and I lost interest in what might have happened to her husband. Eventually the story closed with a mildly interesting touch but my affection for the main characters could not return. I felt cheated by Callanan in that he had led me to high expectation that he could not fulfil. I was also disappointed in Leah who took me so willingly into her mind yet failed to convince me in those final chapters. As I said above, Liam Callanan is a skilled writer who uses a soothing style of prose. He describes well and he has a gentle, sensitive turn of phrase. I see that he teaches Creative Writing, skills which he clearly possesses but they alone are insufficient to produce a good novel. The reader also needs a story with a beginning and an end that will entertain. If Liam Callanan can find a good story he will deserve a five star review but the best I can manage is three and a half stars.
At some point in our lives, we have watched a show, attended a concert or read a book and ultimately said, "we'' there's an evening that I won't get back." Expectation was high, but the reality of the experience was not even close. Disappointment, some feeling of disbelief, and a little anger of time wasted are the initial feelings. I will usually try and rationalize and reason it out and think about what maybe I missed or what the creators goal was but sometimes you have to accept reality that it wasn't that good. I wish I could've walked away from Liam Callanan's book, Paris by the Book, but no matter how long, slow and boring the might be, I will prevail to the end. Part is a hope that the tide will turn as I flip the next page and suddenly the book will be the one that I lose sleep over staying up late to finish with that "Oh or Aha" moment. Unfortunately Callanan's book never gained momentum and was a long hard journey to the finish line. The fictional story of writer, husband, father, Robert Eady, whose disappearance leads his wife, Leah, and their children, Ellie and Daphne, on a search to find him. Sounds like the makings of a good book as the family uproots their lives in Wisconsin to the city of lights, Paris, France in hopes of finding him. Unfortunately, Paris, a mystery and even a beautiful red bookstore couldn't bring this story to life. There is a lack of continuity in regards to the overall plot along with weak and unlikable characters. Ultimately I found myself disinterested in the characters and the story. I loved the cover of this book with its bright red cover but as the saying goes, "don't judge a book by it's cover." I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley. #netgalley #ParisbytheBook
The sudden disappearance of her husband is nothing new to Leah Eady, he has done it again and again in the almost two decades they have spent together. He needs some time-out for his writing, to gather his ideas. But this time, things are different. She cannot find his “away-note”. He never leaves without a short letting them know that he’d be back again soon. When Robert does not show up again after weeks, Leah and her two daughters are devastated. Some clues lead her to believe that he could be in Paris and thus the three of them head for the French capital. Sometimes things just happen and later you cannot recollect what exactly was the decisive moment, so Leah finally finds herself in Europe owning a lovely bookshop. The longer they stay there, the more they adapt to their new life, a life without Robert. But every now and then, he shows up again. They see him in a picture, they imagine having crossed him in the streets. But: is he even still alive? The book sounded so lovely that I had to read it. A bookstore in Paris, a kind of extraordinary love story, the frequent allusion to Albert Lampoisse’s short film “The Red Balloon” – these are the perfect ingredients for a great feel-good bitter-sweet story. Yet, it did not completely catch me. Somehow there were too many breaks in the story, I never knew exactly where it was going too and thus it turned a bit lengthy at times. The characters unfortunately lived too much in the books they read and films they watched to ever find themselves really in Paris and therefore the charm of the town got completely lost. I liked the way the protagonist and her struggle with the situation are portrayed. Even though I think the construction of their relationship is too awkward to be authentic, the moment of not knowing what happened to her husband and being responsible for two teenagers while coping with your own emotions – that’s all but easy. Figuring out how to survive might lead to extreme decision like going to Paris and starting anew. All in all, there were lovely passages, but to sum it up: it is too long for the story that’s been told.
I really wanted to love this book, this writer is from my hometown and the Milwaukee bookshop he references is also close to me. I would classify this more as women’s fiction than anything else as the mystery is slow moving and is only part of the story. Leah and Robert Eady had what started out as a good marriage with bright prospects for the future. They have two daughters, Daphne and Ellie, now young teens, and both parents are quite involved with the girls. Robert is a writer who had one bestseller but has been struggling for years to produce another. He goes on what he calls “write aways” which start to become longer and longer periods of time away from home. Leah is starting to have less and less patience with him and his habit of leaving short notes or clues as to where he is going. It soon becomes apparent that the marriage is headed for trouble and finally Robert disappears for what seems like forever. After the police and others have searched and searched for Robert, Leah finally finds a clue in a cereal box which leads to finding tickets for them all to go to Paris. With the family somewhat in shambles Leah decides to uproot the family, go to Paris and eventually stay. She becomes the owner of a bookstore, not unlike the one described in an unfinished manuscript of Robert’s which comes to surface. We are witness to the struggles that Leah and the girls have in Paris. At first it is difficult but the girls in particular seem to take to the city, the language, the whole different feeling that they are experiencing from their life in Milwaukee, youth usually acclimate quicker than adults in my experience. Both Leah and Robert are obsessed with the “Madeline” series of children’s books as well as a film called “The Red Balloon”. I am familiar with the books but not the film. Problems I had with the book. I found the plot very slow moving and somewhat choppy with references back and force from past to present that did not flow well. The continued references to the Madeline books and The Red Balloon became tiresome and felt overdone. I didn’t really feel a close connection to Leah, I enjoyed the point of views from the girls more interesting and caring. This is a good story, particularly if you love Paris, which unfortunately I’ve never visited. The writing is good but as I mentioned slow moving, it took me several days to get through it because I kept putting it down. At 70% I started to enjoy the novel more as things finally started happening and the last quarter of the book is probably my favorite. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley, thank you.