Book recommendations: March picks

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Seven Ages of Paris, by Alistair Horne

This is such a beautiful book, looking deep into the history of Paris through the ages, from Philippe Auguste in the 12th century, who essentially founded Paris as the major centre of French life, all the way through Henry IV, Louis XIV, the French Revolution, Napoleon, la Belle Epoque, the Occupation and the Resistance, and post-war life under de Gaulle. It’s a fascinating read, especially if you are a Francophile, which I will admit I am turning into.

Paris is an easy city to love, and that makes this book all the more of an enjoyable read. The people of Paris are a hardy lot, and tempestuous, and ready to fight – constantly. Just as ready to rebuild, and rebuild again, which becomes necessary in view of the history this city has seen. The history of the city seems to reflect both the horror and resiliency of humanity. What scares me as well as excites me when reading this account of a fascinating city is that it’s not done yet – not even close. What more tumult will come spilling out of those ancient walls?

More than anything, this book has only enhanced my craving to be back in this city. It’s been nearly a decade since my last exploration of Paris, and I fear that I will live in Europe for years and never get back there. So fingers crossed somehow life will work out that I can explore once again, now with that much more knowledgeable about this city.

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

If you’re looking for a novel that will break your heart, this is pretty much it. Combining a love of opera with a misguided terrorist attack that leads to a lengthy hostage situation, Bel Canto delves deep into the nature of human connection and relationships.

As Stockholm Syndrome takes over, with the terrorist group and a group of high-powered men taken prisoner living in close quarters for months on end, traditional barriers of class and language break down and unlikely friendships strike up. Leading the group is one of the few women in the situation, famous soprano Roxane Coss, who everybody is in love with. She drives the nature of their confinement by holding daily rehearsals and concerts, finding beauty and common ground through music.

I don’t know if I can find the words that do this novel justice. I put the book down while weeping, which is a good thing. Highly highly recommended, although give it a little bit to allow things to get going.

Room, by Emma Donaghue

This book! I had been warned off of reading this book before, when it had initially come out, by someone saying they found it really disturbing and didn’t like it at all. While the subject matter is certainly disturbing, I didn’t dislike it as my first non-recommender did. She thought the relationship between Ma and Jack was disturbing. For me, that was what made this book so incredibly special.

I finally broke down and read this because I wanted to watch the movie, but I have to say that I am glad I waited to read this for when I was a mother. I think it gave me a deeper insight into the book. And I absolutely loved it. This was another tear-jerker. I made Z watch the movie with me as soon as I finished the book because I wanted to watch it while the story was still in my head. The movie was good, Brie Larson’s performance was great, although it didn’t quite get up to the emotional peak that the book did. I was still (not so) discretely sniffing throughout. Has anyone read this before and after becoming a parent? I’m wondering if anyone found they viewed the story differently afterwards? Let me know.

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