Friday, March 10, 2017

Book Review: Three Weeks in Paris

A couple of weeks ago, I finally stepped out to fulfill a writing goal and personal ambition. One of my young adult novels ends with two individuals leaving on a trip to London, Paris, and Rome. Because the novel ends with the possibility for a sequel, I've been skimming advertisements for such a trip whenever they come my way. I'm primarily a fan of London (and have always been an intense Anglophile), and have been to Paris, but I've never explored Rome.

When I chanced upon a Groupon for a London/Paris/Rome trip, I hesitantly called to see how much it would cost to fly out of Indianapolis instead of the New York departure plan. With the assurance that it would only be $17 more (but that this rate might, indeed, go up if I lingered over the decision), I jumped and purchased the deal. I am bound for London/Paris/Rome in November. Of course, on the spur of the moment, I didn't have time (or really any possible contenders) to convince someone else to join me (my husband loathes travel, so that simply wasn't an option).

I've never read anything by Barbara Taylor Bradford before, despite knowing of her rank as a bestselling author. When I stumbled upon this title, Three Weeks in Paris, I thought it would be a great way to begin to soak myself in the locations I will soon visit. Bradford earns the accolades. Her writing is full of interesting and believable characters, with plenty of intrigue and excellent plot development. I appreciated how this novel slowly show-cased each of the four main characters and drew out the details that, at first, nurtured their intense friendship and then managed to separate them. Each character has plenty of backstory and an element of suspense.

The four women return to Paris for a party celebrating the 85th birthday of their esteemed teacher, Anya. Alexa, recently engaged, wonders whether she should renew a relationship with a past love in Paris. Kay is struggling with infertility and a secretive past. She worries that her husband is so intent upon an heir that he will cast her aside. Jessica has long pined for her own love, a man who disappeared shortly before her graduation from Anya's school. Maria is tied to her family's business and eats to console herself. She is at the heart of the incident that sabotaged the friendship between the girls.

While I was swept quickly into the tales of these diverse lives, and did thoroughly enjoy the story, I was disappointed with a plethora of my own personal bookish cryptonite (as Sheila, from The Deliberate Reader, calls it). Call me a prude, but I cannot abide intensely descriptive love-making scenes in books. I don't need help conjuring up images and I would prefer those details to remain in my private imagination.

Moreover, I was distressed by the modern moral vacuum portrayed. Characters are in bed with one man one minute and within a short time, jump into bed with another. The final lines of the book demonstrate this shallow mindset of relationships. It proclaims, "Love - it's the only thing that really matters in the end." I fail to see the depth of love when characters so casually engage in intercourse. So, despite enjoying the Paris descriptions, the varied tales of each character, the resolution of many conflicts, and the engaging storytelling skill of the author, I could not recommend this to many of my friends (especially those who share my sentiments about the sanctity of marriage, the reverence for the private sacredness of the act of marriage, or the dislike of the bookish cryptonite of sexual voyeurism).

I listened to this book in audio form and was thankful that my young sons never entered the room during the seven or eight love scenes. I will say that the narrator, Barbara Rosenblat, did an outstanding job with the narration. She displayed superb skill in bringing these characters to life with separate accents and excellent interpretations. I would happily listen to her narration in another audio book, just probably not another one by this author.

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