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PARIS BLUE: a memoir of first love
Julie Scolnik
Scolnik stirs intense feelings of first love as a student abroad in her debut memoir. A passion for music and a fascination with Europe led her to sign up for a semester in Paris in 1976, “two years into an undergraduate degree in a bland Connecticut town.” There she embraces the opportunity to explore the city, but as much as she tries to fit in, she experiences loneliness being away from family and familiarity, and, for all her efforts, still sticks out as a foreigner. Everything changes, though, when she auditions and joins a chorus as a way to immerse herself in the culture, and meets and then falls for Luc Berthelot, an older Breton. The pair find it increasingly difficult to ignore their attraction, despite Scolnik’s reluctance to get involved with a married man

Scolnik imbues her story with lyricism and emotion, drawing the reader in to the sensations she experiences both in Paris and, later, after her return to the States. It’s easy to get swept up in her joy as she recounts exploring the streets and cafés of Paris in precise, striking prose: “Storefront windows were plastered with gallery exhibit posters, each one so stunning that I often asked the shop owners for old ones they were taking down.” Strains of the classical music she adores seem to linger in the pages, and the darker feelings--especially as she struggles to make a relationship with Luc work--likewise pulse through the text.

Scolnik also perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to be young and fall in love for the first time. The intense feelings her younger self has for Luc give her a naïve hopefulness despite the complications standing in their way—and the contradictions that she increasingly sees in his personality. While the adult Scolnik explores this, she takes readers on a journey with her not just to Paris but deep into matters of the heart as she grows and matures.

Takeaway: In this stirring memoir, Paris is the perfect setting for music, romance, and independence as an American student abroad.

Great for fans of: Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French, Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A