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Eleanor Brown’s inspiration for the novel “The Light of Paris” was her own grandmother who at age 22, went to Paris and ended up working for the American Library. It had been formed in 1920 “to house the 1.3 million volumes sent by the Library War Service for the U.S. troops in France. The library’s motto was, “After the darkness of war, the light of books.”
“The Light of Paris” is a multigenerational story shared by two women, one in the present and one in the past. Madeleine is in her 30s in 1999 and her grandmother, Margie, in her 20s in 1920, living in Paris during the Lost Generation. Many of their issues are similar despite living in different worlds and generations. Madeleine feels trapped in a loveless marriage to narcissistic Phillip, and her grandmother, decades before, by unrealistic parental expectations. The chapters alternate between the two stories and two different periods.
Madeleine’s memory of her grandmother was that she was reserved, elegant and perfect. When Madeleine returns to Magnolia, Ark., to help her disapproving mother move out of her childhood home, she discovers in the attic her grandmother’s journals from her stay in Paris. In reading them, she finds much in common with Margie and starts changing the way she looks at her own life.
Written in a dual narrative style, “The Light of Paris” is a story about love, adventure, obligation, control, and a search for happiness. Readers who have visited, and love, Paris as well as those who understand the tragedy of family history repeating itself, will find this novel an interesting read.