PARIS BLUE: a memoir of first love
By Julie Scolnik; Illustrated by Marcelo Levallén
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.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
First loves only happen once a lifetime, and as such are memorable, for better or worse. In that vein, what could be a more memorable, or magical, experience than finding that love in Paris, a city well known for its romance? For Julie, a 20-year-old music student from a small town in Main, that’s exactly what happened. Furthering her musical talents, and trying to broaden her horizons in a city full of culture, Julie meets Luc, an older man who shares her passionate love of music and art. As the story so often goes, from that moment on, her life was never the same.
Paris Blue is a superbly written memoir by Julie Scolnik about finding unexpected and intense love, in a foreign country. I loved the descriptions of Paris and how the city became such a part of Julie’s story, creating the sense that the love she shared with Luc was literally impossible anywhere else. Scolnik’s wonderful prose perfectly captures the atmosphere and energy of Paris, and the first half of the book reads like a love letter to the city itself. Paris has had more than its fair share of lines written in its honor and this book joins those ranks, painting vivid pictures of bustling streets, quaint cafes, cultured inhabitants, and the serenely bucolic nature that the city still manages to maintain despite all the activity. Julie’s relationship with Luc takes more of a center stage in the latter part of the memoir, as their relationship progresses and then regresses in turns, leaving the reader unsure where the two may eventually land. Throughout the entire impassioned book, Scolnik keeps the tone deeply personal, opening each chapter with an excerpt from one of Luc’s letters, providing hints to events that occur later in their blossoming friendship turned to romance. She never shies away from her feelings or actions, portraying them all as accurately as one can imagine they were at the moment in time.
Music plays a big part in this story. It is music that brings them together in the first place, and the thing that they bond over so intensely, creating an emotional connection well before anything else. The music is so instrumental to their relationship, in fact, that Scolnik provides an index at the end of the pieces that meant the most to them. It’s a sentimental addition that creates another layer of vulnerability to the story being told.
Paris Blue is Julie Scolnik’s memoir, it will captivate readers that love Paris with her vivid descriptions. Readers that enjoy a true story romance will find this biography appealing and heartwarming.