Mary Bly has published a charming memoir and travelogue of her family’s one-year sabbatical in Paris under her pen name, which has been selling romance novels since the late 1990s. As herself, Mary Bly is a Harvard, Oxford and Yale educated literature professor teaching Shakespeare at Fordham University who secretly published romances (successfully enough to pay all of her graduate school loans!) until she obtained tenure. Eloisa James is now regularly on the bestseller lists.
Paris in Love is a compilation of snippets from her carefully-composed Facebook entries along with some longer essays reflecting upon her carefree year in the “city of love” without deadlines and with few obligations. This makes it a perfect book for picking up and dipping into any page for the amusement of reading just a few paragraphs whenever you’re waiting somewhere, or just keeping it on the bedside or coffee table like you would a magazine. I found that I easily kept turning the pages.
Both parents are college professors, so they found it easy to take time off from work. Mary really wanted to make this drastic change because she had just survived breast cancer and was trying to force herself to savor life a little more fervently. Paris had also been on her bucket list since she was little. Emboldened with this second lease on life, they even sold their New Jersey home and gave away many of their possessions before flying off to France. Some of their time is spent in Italy, where Mary’s Italian husband Allessandro has family. Their children, 15-year old Luca and 11-year old Anna, who did not want to leave her friends in the states, provide excellent fodder for laugh-out-loud moments throughout the book. The reader gets to know each family member’s idiosyncrasies as well as a lot of interesting detail about Paris life, people, and culture. My favorite parts are about the daughter’s rebellious nature and her exploits at school.
Two things appealed to me about this little memoir: the extravagant idea of spending an entire year living quite whimsically from day to day in a famously romantic and decadent city like Paris, and the author’s background as an Oxford scholar and Shakespeare professor. I’d love to know what it’s like to feel so free from deadlines, and I find inspiration in Mary Bly’s success story for my teenaged daughter, who has her heart set on attending Oxford University and becoming a literature professor.
Eloisa James has an official web site where you can match her delightful descriptions with photographs of her family members, including the obese Chihuahua named Milo.
Check the WRL catalog for Paris in Love: A Memoir.