Books Magazine

Book Review: A Paris Notebook by C.W. Gusewelle

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

Book: A Paris Notebook by C.W. Gusewelle
Genre: Essays
Publisher: The Lowell Press
Publication date: 1985
Pages: 211

Source: Gift from my brother

cover of A Paris Notebook by C.W. Gusewelle

A series of editorial columns written for the Kansas City Star while Gusewelle and his family spent several months in Paris

Summary: A Paris Notebook contains a series of columns originally written for the Kansas City Star written when Gusewelle and his wife lived with their teen-age daughters in Paris for about six months. Their trip begins with a delayed plane, missed train, and a lost hotel room and ends, as long trips do, with:

That’s what I mean about hating conclusions–things ending before their time has quite run out. It is some days yet, weeks actually, before we have to go anywhere. But the time remaining is shadowed and changed by this sense of termination. p. 201

In between there are 70 some little gems, memories of Paris that will make you feel you have been there if you haven’t and recall your own reminiscences if you have.

Thoughts: My brother found this book for me when he saw I was reading so many books about France. Gusewelle was a favorite columnist of his when he lived in Kansas City in the 80s — Dale may well have read these columns when they first appeared.

I hadn’t realized until I read this book that all the memoirs I’ve read about France are by Californians or New Yorkers. What a relief to have a view from a fellow Missourian. I’d venture to guess this is the only France travel book to describe a duck hunt.

More surprising, this is the first time I remember reading about mushroom hunting. Surely, one of the foodie memoirs must cover this. But, I suppose, city chefs buy their mushrooms. They wouldn’t think, as a Missourian might, that morels grow on our forest floors in the fall and, thus, wonder about the fungi in France.

I loved, too, the descriptions of the city from the perspective of someone who lives in a much less densely populated place. The subways make several appearances and there’s a lovely piece about the way one can see into the apartments across the street as if watching multiple stage plays. Weather, too, is more richly described by a Kansas City dweller than anyone else I’ve read. They know a bit about weather in Kansas City.

Appeal: This reads more as a series of essays than a narrative. We never found out, for instance, why Gusewelle and his family moved to Paris for six months. But there is a story arc because all trips have a beginning, middle, and end. Paris, itself, shines as the major character in these pieces, sharing her places and people for a time with a Midwestern reporter.

photo of Eiffel tower with words Dreaming of FranceChallenges: This is my 17th book for the Books on France 2013 Challenge. I’m also linking this post to today’s Dreaming of France event at An Accidental Blog. Paulita has a book review of The French House by Nick Alexander and there are several links to other French-themed posts.

What are your favorite memoirs of France?
Signature of Joy Weese Moll

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