We’ve all read stories about missed connections or the ones that got away, but none are as beautifully written or as realistic as Clémentine Beauvais’s In Paris With You.
The love story in In Paris With You unfolds over two separate timelines, one that takes place in modern day Paris and the other that’s set ten years prior in a sleepy Parisian suburb.
Ten years ago, over the course of an otherwise ordinary summer, teenagers Tatiana and Eugene fell in love with each other. However, certain circumstances kept them from truly ever being together and they went their separate ways, not knowing if they’d ever see each other again.
However, a chance meeting on the Paris metro a decade later causes them both to re-live that summer and wonder if ten years was enough time to overcome the circumstances that kept them apart. They were each other’s first loves, after all, which has to count for something, right?
Told in the most beautiful verse, In Paris With You is a lovely story of first loves and getting a second chance at tackling the “what if?”s and mistakes that we all wish we could take back from time to time.
Now, I know what you may be thinking at this point: “Poetry? This book’s story is told through poetry? I don’t think this is for me.”
I totally get it. I’m not normally one to pick up poetry. Though my high school teachers and college English professors worked tirelessly to get me to connect with poetry, I never really did. (In fact, the only poet I ever really enjoyed reading was Stephen Crane whose works couldn’t be more different from this.)
That being said, this book’s language and use of verse captivated me from the very first page. While it takes a few pages to get into the rhythm of the storytelling, it flows as beautifully and naturally as any normal prose narrative I’ve ever read.
But, by being told through verse, this novel does what prose stories can’t often do: Dictate the speed, rhythm, and even tone of how everything should be read. The verse creates its own pauses and inflections rather than relying on the reader to come up with them. Giving up that power as a reader is a really fascinating feeling and makes for an almost cinematic reading experience.
Not only do the use of language and verse impress me, but the fact that this is a translation of a novel originally written in French does as well. While I have no doubt that some of the novel’s original beauty probably got lost in translation (I personally can’t speak French, so I’ll never truly know), I’m wowed by Sam Taylor’s translation. If the translation is this well-done, I can’t help but imagine how wonderful the original text was (and lament the fact that I’ll probably never be able to read it).
In addition to the use of verse, I was also intrigued by In Paris With You‘s narrator. Instead of having the two main characters, Tatiana and Eugene, tell the story, the novel calls upon an omniscient narrator that can see all through the present day (but can’t see the future).
Though the story’s point of view does switch between Tatiana and Eugene’s, the entirety of the novel is told from this third party that knows the characters’ minds and sometimes speaks to them. Some of my favorite passages in this book are when the narrator calls the characters out on their bullshit thoughts and excuses. It’s almost like the narrator is the representation of the little voice in the back of all of our heads, except it’s inside more than just one mind.
And, I mean, if the narrator can be in more than one mind at a time, the minds of In Paris With You‘s main characters are the places to be. Both Tatiana and Eugene are more than meets the eye. Neither is just one thing. They’re both naïve and self-destructive, hopeful and jaded.
I love the fact that a lot of their past and current situations are situations (mostly) of their own making. The lack of a true outside force affecting them and their relationship makes everything that goes on in this novel all the more real.
That being said, it’s the characters’ unabashed “realness” that creates the aspects of this novel that I like the least. I don’t mind when characters make mistakes (even ones that are kind of gross), but I dislike it when they’re not at all called out on or remorseful for them.
Though I find Eugene to be really layered and complicated, a few of his actions set off some pretty strong red flags for me. Worse still, he never gets reprimanded for them or even told that he’s being creepy. After finishing the novel, I’m not sure he’s ever made aware of his inappropriateness.
But I guess it’s all for the best as this really isn’t your typical romance novel or love story (at least, in the way I was expecting). The back of my copy of the book likens it to Eleanor & Park which I wholly disagree with.
In Paris With You is not a love story. Rather, it’s a story about love and the things it can drive us all to do. While I won’t give away the ending, the way the novel leaves the characters makes it clear that it’s not necessarily a romance novel.
In Paris With You is a beautiful character piece that takes two individuals as they are (as well as how they were) and doesn’t try to force them to be something they’re not. It examines how we can all get in our own ways sometimes and how those missteps can affect others as well as our relationships with others. While the story lags at certain points, Tatiana and Eugene’s relationship (as well as their mysterious shared history) kept me turning the pages quickly and energetically.
If you’re a fan of contemporary books about love and well-executed character pieces, as well as just beautifully written stories, In Paris With You needs to be on your to-read list.