Book Review: The Streets of Paris by Susan Cahill

by Patricia Conover
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Susan Cahill Streets of Paris

When I opened The Streets of Paris, the latest travel book by Susan Cahill, I was astonished. Here is the book I looked for during all my years in Paris—an illumination of the City of Light–written with intelligence, wit and elegance.

Susan Cahill

Susan Cahill, a distinguished author who divides her time between Paris and New York, brings scholarship and enthusiasm to the fore in a guidebook that draws us into the mysteries of the city in writing both spare and insightful. Cahill reveals fascinating histories and tells us exactly how to get there from here. From Abelard and Héloïse—ill-fated twelfth-century lovers—to Edith Piaf (The Little Sparrow), we learn about the lives and loves of the city’s most illustrious characters and then we are directed to the places where they lived, loved, dreamed, created, and died.

The Streets of Paris

Louis IX, Michel de Montaigne, Marie Curie, Voltaire, Camus, Giacometti, François Truffaut, and Colette, among others, all come to life in the arrondissements they called home. Why do these cultural giants still cast a spell over both natives and visitors? Because their lives and accomplishments shaped this most picturesque of cities just as much as the Seine and the architecture. Cahill begins each chapter with a location and a metro stop so that the reader is completely oriented to a specific place and time at the start. The story of the eminent person (or couple) emerges and intertwines with the locale.  Cahill ends each chapter with a list of interesting places to explore in the neighborhood.

It’s obvious that Marion Ranoux, the photographer whose lovely work illustrates The Streets of Paris, is a true Parisienne. Her photographs capture the light, mystique and beauty of the place.

If this is your cup of tea—or glass of wine—you’ll love this book, even if you never leave the comfort of your armchair. You’ll come to know The Streets of Paris inside out. And if you are planning to visit Paris it would be wise to read this book before you go. You’ll get to know many of the rare and unforgettable spirits whose names were once on the tip of every cosmopolitan tongue. Drop the book into your carry-on—it’s light and compact. Open it as you sip your Café Crème at The Café de Flore, a favorite of Camus. And as you stroll The Streets of Paris like a true flâneur, you will savor the neighborhoods these luminaries once lived in and, without question, still haunt.

Susan Cahill

Author Susan Cahill. (Photo by Joseph Cahill.)

For More:

  • Susan Cahill wrote Hidden Gardens of Paris along with several other travel books about France, Italy, and Ireland. She is the editor of the Women and Fiction series and author of the novel Earth Angels.
  • The Streets of Paris,  by Susan Cahill, Photographs by Marion Ranoux. St. Martin’s Press Paperback, 320 pages.

– Photos courtesy of St. Martin’s Press.

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