If you love the great French 19th century writers; Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert, George Sand, and towering above them all Honore de Balzac then reading A Passion for Paris - Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light by David Downie is perhaps the next best thing to spending three months on an intensive literary tour of Paris.
I have read other "glories of Paris" books but Passion for Paris is the first that focuses on the great Romantic Era French writers. For me it was just a joy to read. With Downie as my guide I felt I was meandering through Paris of 1850 or so, from the most elite intellectual salons, restaurants with food to die for, coffee shops where Balzac got part of his legendary fifty cups a day fix, hideaways of mistresses of Victor Hugo, apartments where Baudelaire wrote The Flowers of Evil, brothels for every taste, and set in on conversations between some of the greatest writers of the world.
I learned from Downie a lot about Victor Hugo and I was proud of the French for their reverence of their great writers. I did not know of his many romantic entanglements and of his very advanced social views. I was staggered by the incredible energy of Balzac. Downie tells his readers where they can see homes and museums of the writers. He lets us see the writers as humans living in a time and place but he in no way indulges in shallow reductionism. I gained in my understanding of George Sand and her place in the era. The book focuses on writers but it does also go into fascinating accounts of the artistic world. It was wonderful to learn how Rodin modeled and created his great sculpture of Balzac.
The standard of prose is high and you really get a feel for Paris in the Romantic Era from A Passion for Paris.
www.davidddownie.com/ has additional information
Official Author Auto - Biography
A native San Franciscan, I've called Paris home since 1986. I'm the author of a dozen books. My travel, food and wine features have appeared worldwide. I've been contributing editor or Paris correspondent for half a dozen magazines. After a quarter century I still love living in Paris. My wife Alison and I also enjoy sharing with our readers, taking them on private tours of Paris, Rome, Burgundy and the Italian Riviera. Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light, with photography by Alison (Random House) is into its 10th printing. Paris City of Night is a classic thriller set in Paris; Food Wine Italian Riviera & Genoa; Rome; and Burgundy are published by The Little Bookroom, as is Quiet Corners of Rome. My Paris Timeline App, on the Apple store, traces 10,000 years of history, mystery, and lore. The Food Wine Rome app lists hundreds of restaurants and gourmet shops. Paris to the Pyrenees is my latest bestseller. A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light comes out in spring 2015.
If fate ever lands me in Paris, I hope I can go on one of David's walking tours of Paris! Ok maybe three or four tours.
I highly enjoyed his book. I will profit in my continued reading of the French masters from this book