Paris is probably the only city in the world that is dreamed about by such a wide variety of people – romantics, historians, artists, fashionistas and jet-setters alike. It is a city that is famous not only for notorious home-grown figures like Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Victor Hugo, but also for the ex-pats who have been lured there, like Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Fyodorovich Stravinsky. It is not surprising, then, that this is the city to which Dierdre Kelly, an aspiring writer, was drawn.
Paris Times Eight: Finding Myself in the City of Dreams is the story of eight separate visits Deirdre made to the iconic city at different stages in her life. The first immediately followed her graduation from high school, when she was given the opportunity to accompany a local family, for whom she had often babysat, as an au pair. The trip came at an age when she was still searching for a sense of herself, an age when she was easily impressed by perceived glamour and sophistication.
Her subsequent visits take place under a variety of circumstances, but it seems that most of her visits are instigated by some sort of upheaval or major life event. When life becomes challenging or difficult, or when she feels that she is on the verge of beginning a new path, she is inevitably drawn to the city that she has yearned to call home.
The book proved to be less travel memoir and more personal memoir. As the author goes through different phases of her life, Paris seems to change along with her. Each time she visits the increasingly familiar city, she sees a different place. Sometimes it is a place of wonder, while at others it seems cold and unyielding. Paris seems to act as a mirror, intensifying the feelings she has about herself and her life at each point in time. Like the relationship we each have with ourselves, the one she has with her beloved city lasts a lifetime and evolves even as she does.
Most of us have a dream that we are reluctant to let go of – whether it is a career, a partner, a family, an experience. For Deirdre, this dream is Paris.
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