It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris by Patricia Engel

It's Not Love, It's Just Paris by Patricia Engel Purchase:

    The novel’s atmosphere and characters linger in my mind like the memory of an unforgettable perfume. 

    Patricia Engel’s collection of stories, Vida, quickly established her as one of our country’s best young writers, winning praise from Junot Daz, Uzodinma Iweala, Francisco Goldman, and others. Her first novel is a vibrant and wistful narrative about an American girl abroad in Paris, who navigates the intoxicating and treacherous complexities of independence, friendship, and romance.

    Lita del Cielo, the daughter of two Colombian orphans who arrived in America with nothing and made a fortune with their Latin food empire, has been granted one year to pursue her studies in Paris before returning to work in the family business. She moves into a gently crumbling Left Bank mansion known as “The House of Stars”, where a spirited but bedridden Countess Séraphine rents out rooms to young women visiting Paris to work, study, and, unofficially, to find love.

    Cautious and guarded, Lita keeps a cool distance from the other girls, who seem at once boldly adult and impulsively naive, who both intimidate and fascinate her. Then Lita meets Cato, and the contours of her world shift. Charming, enigmatic, and weak with illness, Cato is the son of a notorious right-wing politician. As Cato and Lita retreat to their own world, they soon find it difficult to keep the outside world from closing in on theirs. Ultimately Lita must decide whether to stay in France with Cato or return home to fulfill her immigrant family’s dreams for her future.

    It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris is a spellbinding love story, a portrait of a Paris caught between old world grandeur and the international green-blood elite, and an exploration of one woman’s journey to distinguish honesty from artifice and lay claim to her own life.

    Review by GEA:

    Patricia Engel
    Patricia Engel

    It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris is one of the best books I’ve read all year, including The Great Gatsby and True Grit. Yes, I’m putting Engel in the same category as Fitzgerald and Portis. This coming of age story is a true classic, filled with such poignant honesty and searing wisdom as to stand the test of time, yet it is a fluid page turner too. An easy five stars and I do not grant five stars easily. If you’re looking for THE novel of 2013, this is it.

    Lita, a young American-Columbian girl in her 20th year, journeys to Paris to continue her education. She’s a green blood, a new moneyed girl from parents who come from tragically modest means yet clawed their way out of poverty to realize the American Dream. In Paris, Lita will come crashing against old money, blue blooded establishment, multi-million dollar girls from all over the world, and maybe, just possibly, the greatest love of her life. Love is a simple story really, an international Romeo and Juliet for the 21st century full of timeless universal themes.

    Engel explores what it is to be an outsider, poised on the edge of an exotic world looking in. She explores what it is to be female on the cusp of womanhood, a girl discovering herself yet torn in half amidst conflicting loyalties to family, tradition, country, and love. How Lita resolves these various tensions blooming and soaring within her will keep you relentlessly turning the pages.

    This is a novel hard to put down. As I came to the end, I was desperate to see what would happen to our dear Lita. I’m a fire medic and I flew through pages on the way back from panic attacks and a car accident before finishing back at the station alone in the truck, breathless, eyes welling up with tears. I was stunned. And still now, long after I’ve turned the last page, I feel the novel’s atmosphere and characters lingering in my mind like the memory of an unforgettable perfume.

    Few writers are funny and wise simultaneously, but Patricia Engel (like Charles Portis), is one of those writers. She is also tragically romantic. I have often yearned for a category of literary romance, but it is hard to find a writer beyond the age of Jane Austen or the Brontes who can render desire in breathtaking prose. Robert Goolrich (The Reliable Wife) can, and now I am happy to add Patricia Engel to the list.

    It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris is romantic and wise. Sad and beautiful. It is a novel that transcends hype and fads and time. Patricia Engel is a deeply talented writer with a sensitive eye and compassionate heart threaded through with a touch of tragedy. I cannot wait to see what her next story will bring.