Gillian Tindall is well known for her ability to breathe a passionate life into the generations of those who have walked the earth before us. Here, using a handful of lives, she evokes the texture and atmosphere of a hidden Paris which has survived against all the odds of time and chance. Her study shows how Paris has drawn into its magnetic field people who have variously found there education or enlightenment, a refuge or a secret garden, even a different identity.
Five individuals, all related in some way, reveal a web of human feeling and experiences across two centuries. There is the young doctor who walked from Edinburgh to Paris at the time of Napoleon's downfall; the self-made Victorian businessman who traded with the brash capital of the Second Empire; his reserved son who found in the old stones of Paris a refuge from his fraught childhood; Maud, the archetypal English spinster, who somehow managed to construct an alternatative experience in Paris; and Julia , young and desperate, who found her own unlikely salvation there in a very different era.
Gillian Tindall brings Paris alive - whether it's the network of streets that form the Left Bank, the resonance of 'Bohemia' and its garrets, cafes and artists, 'Gay Paree' with its music halls and courtesans or the past chroniclers of the city such as Zola, George du Maurier and Orwell. But featured far more than the famous, are the unsung citizens for whom Gillian Tindall has such empathy.
"Tindall writes of a lost Paris with a quiet eloquence that is all her own, combining scrupulous honesty with a compassionate imagination and an eye for memorable detail"
"It's a fascinating walking tour of old Paris, studded with humour and sympathetic glimpses into several lives that have resisted the microscope of history"
"The book's true strength lies in its writer's abiding, for-better-for-worse attachment to her city of the heart"
"Tindall's alertness to detail and brimming intelligence are consistently engaging"
"delightful book invites reflection, speculation, argument, and almost every page also summons memories"