Book Reviews

Dear Paris: The Paris Letters Collection by Janice Macleod | Book Review

🎉 Happy book birthday, Dear Paris! 🎉


Be transported to the banks of the Seine, a corner boulangerie, or beneath the Eiffel Tower with these beautifully illustrated vignettes of life in the City of Light. What began as a way to fund travel became ten years of a letter subscription service delivering thousands of painted letters to subscribers who delight in fun mail!

Eat, Pray, Love meets Claude Monet in this epistolary ode to Paris. What started as a whim in a Latin Quarter café blossomed into Janice MacLeod’s yearslong endeavor to document and celebrate life in Paris, sending monthly snippets of her paintings and writings to the mailboxes of ardent followers around the world. Now, Dear Paris collects the entirety of the Paris Letters project: 140 illustrated messages discussing everything from macarons to Montmartre.

For readers familiar with the city, Dear Paris is a rendezvous with their own memories, like the first time they walked along the Champs-Élysées or the best pain au chocolat they’ve ever tasted. But it’s about more than just a Paris frozen in nostalgia; the book paints the city as it is today, through elections, protests, and the World Cup—and through the people who call it home. Wistful, charming, surprising, and unfailingly optimistic, Dear Paris is a vicarious visit to one of the most iconic and beloved places in the world.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I first read Janice’s book Paris Letters when a blogger I followed featured it as a pick for her book club. I devoured it in not just a day, but in a sitting. I had never before had my perfect brand of wanderlust described in writing. I felt so connected to her stories of Paris and her unique way of sharing it with others. I’ve also read A Paris Year, Janice’s second book about Paris, which was just as amazing but with the addition of gorgeous art that had me searching for flights to Paris on the internet and digging through my closet for my suitcase, desperate to feel the same feelings half a world away. Suffice to say, I’m a huge fan of Janice, her art, and her Parisian memoirs. I’ve always always had a fascination with France without even realizing. I thought my heart lie elsewhere, until I slowly detected a pattern in the things that I loved. French history. French art. The French language (which I’m terrible at). French names and French films. It was time I admitted my affair and obsession; it’s been a whirlwind ever since, and Janice has a huge part in that.

Dear Paris: The Paris Letters Collection is the culmination of all of Janice’s work since her first step in Paris so many years ago. It was so refreshing and lovely to experience this romantic city through her illustrations and ethereal descriptions of life in the City of Lights. She’s poetic but relatable, romanticising just enough to make you itch to visit, while also not shielding away the realities. Nearly all of the letters are addressed to her friend Áine, and I thought it would be strange at first to read the letters written to someone else. But it isn’t. It’s a love affair from afar, where one friend can send the beauty of a city through a letter and another friend can receive it on the other end. It’s a way to experience Paris, to have that affair, while never even being there. You can easily picture Janice sitting at a café, or walking along the Seine, as she pens these letters with curiosity and patience, a leisurely flâneur of the city. Occasionally she mentions current events, such as the devastating fire at Notre Dame or the Yellow Vest protests. The majority of the letters however can be read as if written at any point in recent history. They’re dated, but whether it’s October 2020 or April 2014, they all had a similar air to them that made them timeless – which makes revisiting them all the more enjoyable, as you are taken back to a time when life was just a little bit less unknown and worrying. I also particularly loved the quotes included at the bottom of each letter. They were not all about Paris. They were not all about leisure, or historical figures, or literature, or even related to the content in any synonymous way. But they all flowed seamlessly in with the subject of each letter, and even if you recognise the quote or the person who said it (this is a subtle shout-out to the inclusion of Robert Pattinson at the height of Twilight fame), it still manages to blend in and make it seem like it was said precisely for this moment, no other. It was the perfect addition to each page.

There are thousands of books out there about what it’s like to live in Paris. With how the internet makes it easier to connect to others around the world, there are even more bloggers and influencers who share the same thing, day in and day out. But there’s something special about a book that just offers you a glimpse into daily life, from wandering down your street to your boulangerie, or experiencing Paris during the month of August, when it becomes a ghost town as everyone flees to the Mediterranean. I’ve read tons of those blog posts and tons of those books, but Janice’s books still remain my favourite. Romantic yet real, titillating yet ordinary, I think I will always keep them on my shelf for reference, but also as a way to escape and dream of pleasanter days ahead.

Janice Macleod

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I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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