Is it fate or circumstance that brings two lovers together? Romantics would argue the first, the more pragmatic like me, the second. The Emperor of Paris makes the pragmatic romantic, weaving magic into the story of the decades-long sequence of events which brings two unlikely characters together. This novel is much more than just a love story. It is a love letter – to Paris, to books and to circumstance.
Perhaps the most beautiful line I’ve read in years was the simple sentence which ended the novel. “Tell me how we came to this,” Isabeau says to Octavio. And suddenly you want to start all over again at page one, to rediscover how the disfigured daughter of an esteemed Paris fashion designer comes to fall in love with the illiterate book-loving baker.
Told in two times, the story alternates between the present, as Octavio rushes home to his burning bakery, and the past, filled with charming and melancholy characters whose actions contribute to bringing the lovers together.
The Emperor of Paris is a novel to be savoured. Read it slowly. Appreciate the words, the personalities and the images created. This is wonderful writing.
I feel like I ought to say more, but it doesn’t feel right to say too much. The book is quiet and unassuming. It is beautiful. You need to read it for yourself.
Long-listed for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Aug 14 2012)
*** On a side note – I’m back! My apologies for taking a month to update my supposedly weekly blog. All I can say is life got a little crazy for a time, and something had to give. As this blog is neither family nor work, it was temporarily de-prioritized. All is well, just had a lot of things to sort out, including an upcoming move. I will do my best to make up for the missed weeks with some double postings over the next while. ***