My birthday isn’t here yet, but I have just finished “From a Paris Balcony”, a gift from a dear friend. Here’s what I think of it.
Title: From a Paris Balcony Author: Ella Carey Publishers: Lake Union Publishing (October 11, 2016) Format: Kindle, Paperback Website: www.ellacarey.com Pages: 290 Genre: Fiction – Contemporary
What’s it about?
“From a Paris Balcony” tells the stories of two women from two different centuries, both lost. Louisa Duval (nee West) longed for freedom and independence in conservative 19th century Europe, while Sarah West longed for the husband and family she would now not have.
They are bound by a devastating death, Louisa’s through suicide. To escape the pain in her life, she fled to Paris on a personal mission to discover the story of Louisa, her great great-aunt’s death after discovering a letter written to Louisa’s husband, Henry from one of Belle Epoque Paris’ notorious courtesan, Marthe de Florian. Guided by her instinct, Sarah searched for answers as her path crosses that of Laurent Chartier, an acclaimed artist who seems to be on his own private journey.
Will Sarah find the answers she is searching for? Did Louisa?
The women’s lives ran parallel in their attachment to their ideals and the future they wanted. Will they dare to embrace the lives they have, instead of the lives they wish?
Other than the romance, “From a Paris Balcony” highlights the conflict and hypocrisy of morality, class and norms in late 19th century Europe, particularly Paris and London. It also brings the issue of gender inequality to the fore.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, and enjoy it. There are whimsical and reflective elements to this book, and few could escape the romanticism of the City of Light.
Now I wish I was back there 😉 !
Ratings: Realistic Characterization: 3/5 Made Me Think: 3/5 Overall enjoyment: 3.5/5 Readability: 3/5 Recommended: 3.5/5 Overall Rating: 3/5
MIKHAEYLA KOPIEVSKY is an independent speculative fiction author who loves writing about complex and flawed characters in stories that explore philosophy, sociology and politics. She holds degrees in International Relations, Journalism, and Environmental Science. A former counter-terrorism advisor, she has travelled to and worked in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Mikhaeyla lives in the Hunter Valley, Australia, with her husband and son. Divided Elements | Resistance is her debut offering.
What’s Resistance about?
Resistance (Divided Elements #1) is the story of Anaiya 234 – a Peacekeeper of the Fire Element who patrols Otpor’s streets enforcing the Orthodoxy. In Otpor, a future post-apocalyptic Paris, life is a utopia – debauchery, security and stability are all provided by the Cooperative and maintained by strict adherence to the ruling ideology. Wrong action is termed Unorthodoxy and punished in a way similar to how crimes are dealt with in these days – retraint and detention. But, wrong thought – Heterodoxy – that is the real crime.
Only once has the crime of Heterodoxy taken place, and the original Resistor – Kane 148 – was Executed for it. But, now Heterodox murals are appearing on crumbling Otpor infrastructure, hinting at a new rebellion. Radical measures will be taken to find and take down this new Resistance, changing life in Otpor and Anaiya, forever.2.
2, Why did you write your book?
I started (and finished) writing this book for two reasons: 1) I needed to finally take my passion for writing seriously and commit to crafting and finishing a novel whose standard of quality I could be proud of, and 2) I needed to tell this story that calls into question humanity’s endless ambition to categorise society into us vs them, self vs other, familiar vs threatening. It is a theme that I am deeply passionate about – ignorance, xenophobia, intolerance and apathy are at the core of most of humanity’s problems. I believe if we focused on what we have in common, or on what our unique and individual skills, beliefs and perspectives can contribute, we would be that much closer to a more utopian ideal of humanity.
3. Who is the main character in Resistance?
Anaiya 234 is a complex and flawed character. Many readers find her unlikeable at the beginning of the story – which is not surprising since she is so fiercely and steadfastly dedicated to fulfilling her Peacekeeper role. As a Fire Elemental, she is conditioned to have only a limited spectrum of emotions, to be practical and stoic – a finely tuned instrument in keeping Otpor citizen’s compliant and the streets safe.
But, Anaiya has a shadowy legacy that follows her around. And when the discovery of new Heterodox murals gives her the opportunity to erase this legacy, she finds herself unable to say no. As the key player in the strategy to dismantle the Resistance, Anaiya is thrown into a new world where everything she has learned and taken for granted is suddenly called into question. Some of my favourite reviews of Resistance, talk about how much they love seeing the shift in Anaiya’s personality and the internal conflict she struggles with throughout the book.
4. Why do you think people should buy Resistance?
This book is for readers who love the dystopian and post-apocalyptic scifi genres, but who want a darker and grittier story than what YA books are offering. One reader called Resistance “Divergent’s bigger, badder, tougher, realer older sister”. While it will satisfy your need for the standard dystopian tropes, this book turns them on their head and puts them in a new context – in this story, the protagonist is not a hero, but a real and flawed character. And they’re not on a self-righteous path to bring down the Government, they’re actively fighting the Resistance while struggling with their convictions in doing so.
If you like stories with interesting characters and dynamic world-building that will challenge as well as entertain you, then I think this one is for you!
5. What’s your favorite writing snack?
I rarely snack when I write! I usually find that I get so immersed in the story, I either forget to eat or rush to pull together something very basic so I can get back into it! That being said, I do love to celebrate writing milestones with a nice dinner – my favourite is a local French restaurant (fitting, no?) where I could spend many a long, lazy Sunday brunch eating the charcuterie platter and indulging in a nice bottle of French wine!
6. What’s your favorite writing beverage?
As most authors would attest, writing is a caffeinated sport I am one of those strange people that doesn’t drink tea or coffee, so I get my fix with Coke Zero – sometimes spiked with bourbon if I’m channelling my inner Hemingway… But I am also very partial to mojitos in summer and a nice Hendricks G&T while the sun is going down. When I lived in Sydney. I loved visiting the small bars and speakeasies. Unsurprising, then, that I created a Cocktail Companion Guide to Resistance that readers can download for free here: www.instafreebie.com/free/1q8wq8
7. If you were on desert island with just one book to read, what would it be and why?
That is a very cruel scenario! Without my library of ficton and non-fiction, I guess it would have to be “How to successfully escape a desert island and make it back to civilisation”
8. Who is your go to celebrity crush?
Now this is a MUCH easier question to answer Supernatural’s Dean Winchester has been the inspiration for many of my characters. Even Seth, a character in Resistance (Divided Elements #1) took some initial inspiration from the hunter with a saviour complex. Supernatural is also my go-to binge watching fix when I’m stressing out about writing deadlines or immovable plot problems. Now, if you were throwing the box set of Supernatural episodes or even Dean Winchester himself into the desert island scenario, I might not be so worried about reading that book…
The official online launch for Resistance takes place on Saturday 4 February. There will be excerpt readings, an author Q&A, and special guests to talk about the development of the book’s cover art and discuss the themes of the book. Mikhaeyla would love to invite ll of you to attend – you can RSVP here (it’s an open invitation, so feel free to share with friends and family!)
A writer’s notebook becomes the key that unlocks memories of a love formed and lost in 1960s Paris.
In the aftermath of Algeria’s war of independence, Paris was a city rife with suspicion and barely suppressed violence. Amid this tension, Jean, a young writer adrift, met and fell for Dannie, an enigmatic woman fleeing a troubled past. A half century later, with his old black notebook as a guide, he retraces this fateful period in his life, recounting how, through Dannie, he became mixed up with a group of unsavory characters connected by a shadowy crime. Soon Jean, too, was a person of interest to the detective pursuing their case–a detective who would prove instrumental in revealing Dannie’s darkest secret. The Black Notebook bears all the hallmarks of this Nobel Prize–winning literary master’s unsettling and intensely atmospheric style, rendered in English by acclaimed translator Mark Polizzotti (Suspended Sentences). Once again, Modiano invites us into his unique world, a Paris infused with melancholy, uncertain danger, and the fading echoes of lost love.
From the Back Cover
“1960s Paris, a mysterious girl, a group of shady characters, danger . . . Modiano’s folklore is set out from the beginning . . . and sheer magic follows once more.” — Vogue
“The prose — elliptical, muted, eloquent — falls on the reader like an enchantment . . . No one is currently writing such beautiful tales of loss, melancholy, and remembrance.” —Independent
“Sublime . . . [A] magnificent novel that reawakens days long past, illuminating them with a dazzling light.” — Elle (France)
In the aftermath of Algeria’s war of independence, Paris was a city rife with suspicion and barely suppressed violence. Amid this tension, Jean, a young writer adrift, met and fell for Dannie, an enigmatic woman fleeing a troubled past. A half century later, with his old black notebook as a guide, he retraces this fateful period in his life, recounting how, through Dannie, he became mixed up with a group of unsavory characters connected by a shadowy crime. Soon Jean, too, was a person of interest to the detective pursuing their case — a detective who would prove instrumental in revealing Dannie’s darkest secret.
The Black Notebook bears all the hallmarks of this Nobel Prize–winning literary master’s unsettling and intensely atmospheric style. Once again, Patrick Modiano invites us into his unique world, a Paris infused with melancholy, uncertain danger, and the fading echoes of lost love.
“Never before has Modiano written a novel as lyrical as this . . . Both carefully wrought and superbly fluid, sustained by pure poetry.” — Le Monde
Patrick Modiano is the author of more than twenty novels, including several bestsellers. He has won the Prix Goncourt, the Grand Prix National des Lettres, and many other honors. In 2014 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. He lives in Paris.
Mark Polizzotti has translated more than forty books from the French, including Modiano’s Suspended Sentences. He is director of the publications program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. About the Author
PATRICK MODIANO was born in 1945 in a suburb of Paris and grew up in various locations throughout France. In 1967, he published his first novel, La Place de l’étoile, to great acclaim. Since then, he has published over twenty novels—including the Goncourt Prize−winning Rue des boutiques obscures (translated as Missing Person), Dora Bruder, and Les Boulevards des ceintures(translated as Ring Roads)—as well as the memoir Un Pedigree and a children’s book, Catherine Certitude. He collaborated with Louis Malle on the screenplay for the film Lacombe Lucien. In 2014, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Swedish Academy cited “the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the Occupation,” calling him “a Marcel Proust of our time.”
MARK POLIZZOTTI has translated more than forty books from the French, including Patrick Modiano’s Suspended Sentences, and is director of the publications program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Thanks to Net Galley and to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Mariner Books for providing me with a free ARC copy of this novel that I gladly reviewed.
This is the first of Patrick Modiano’s novels I read, so I can’t comment on its similarities or differences with the rest of his oeuvre or how well it fits in with his usual concerns.
The novel, translated into English by Mark Polizzotti, is a wander through his memories and the city of Paris by Jean, a writer who fifty years ago, when he was very young, kept a black notebook where he wrote all kinds of things: streets and people’s names, references to writers he admired and events he experienced, sentences people said, rumours, he recorded information about buildings that were about to disappear, dates, visits to places, locations…
The story can be read as a mystery novel, as there are clues referring to false identities, strange men who meet in underground hotels, breaking and entering, robberies and even a serious crime is hinted at. There’s a police interrogation and suggestions of political conspiracy/terrorism, as the original events take place shortly after Algeria’s War of Independence, and a few of the characters are Moroccan and have a reputation for being secretive and dangerous. There is also Dannie, a woman a few years older than Jean, who has a central role in all the intrigues, or at least that’s how it seemed to him at the time. What did he really feel for her? Is he revisiting a love story? Although it is possible to try a conventional reading of the novel, the joy of what French theorist Roland Barthes would call a readerly approach to it, is in making up your own meaning, in accompanying Jean in his walks not only around the real Paris, but also the Paris of his memory, those moments when he feels that he can almost recapture the past, through reading his notes, and relive the moment when he was knocking at a door, or observing outside of a café. Sometimes, more than recapturing the past he feels as if he could bridge the gap of time and go back: to recover a manuscript he forgot years ago, turn off a light that could give them away, or ask questions and clarifications about events he wasn’t aware of at the time.
The narration, in first person, puts the reader firmly inside of Jean’s head, observing and trying to make sense of the same clues he has access to, although in our case without the possible benefit of having lived the real events (if there is such a thing) at the time. But he insists he did not pay enough attention to things as they were happening, and acknowledges that often we can only evaluate the importance of events and people we come across in hindsight when we can revisit them with a different perspective.
The writing is beautiful, fluid, nostalgic, understated and intriguing at times. The book is also very short and it provides a good introduction to Modiano’s writing. But this is not a novel for readers who love the conventions and familiarity provided by specific genres and who want to know what to expect when they start reading, or those who like to have a clear plot and story, and need solid characters to connect with. Here, even the protagonist, Jean, remains a cypher or a stand-in for both, the reader and the writer.
I enjoyed the experience of reading this book, although as mentioned it is not a book for everyone. But, if you love Paris, enjoy a walk down memory lane, like books that make you work and think, have an open mind and are curious about Modiano’s work, I recommend it.