I love books written by people who have lived abroad. It’s amazing to be paging through a book and then, suddenly, happen upon a line that perfectly echoes your life in a way that no one else seems to understand. The first time I felt this was when reading Notes From a Small Island. There were so many moments in the book that just made me want to scream ‘YES!’
It’s difficult to describe what it’s like living abroad to family, to friends, to random strangers—trust me I’ve tried—because it’s not really like anything. My life that was once here, is now there. And that’s it.
So when reading something that perfectly articulates a feeling that I don’t quite have the words for, I get really excited. That’s how I felt whilst reading Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing me Down by Rosencrans Baldwin. Sure, I’ve never lived in Paris, but living abroad, living in a different language, is a pretty transferrable experience. Now, why can’t that go on my CV?
My appreciation for Paris I Love you doesn’t come from Baldwin’s experience in Paris exactly, though I certainly enjoyed his descriptions. The reason this book sung for me was that Baldwin didn’t only focus on an outsider’s view of Paris as a disappointingly few number of expat authors on the city of lights seem to do, rather I liked that he did the opposite. Instead of reading about his glorious travels through the city, though that was in there as well, the reader got a sense of what his day-to-day life in Paris was like. You don’t only learn that you could get a great pain au raisin at the nearby boulangerie, you also get a peak into the life of a Paris office.
Paris I Love you is less a book about Paris and more a book about life, a book about culture that allows the reader a glimpse into a world that, all too often, feels closed off. Baldwin draws the curtain away from the tourist experience to allow the reader to understand the contradictions that expat life is rife with.
In order to truly love and understand a city, you must be able to hate it. This book tracks his feelings towards the city, a journey that is relatable to anyone, even if you don’t love Paris.
Do you enjoy reading books about people living abroad?