An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris
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An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris

3.18 of 5 stars 3.18  ·  rating details  ·  497 ratings  ·  91 reviews
A haunting and moving collection of original narratives that reveals an expatriate's coming-of-age in Paris and the magic she finds in ordinary objects

An awkward, curious girl growing up in a foreign country, Stephanie LaCava finds solace and security in strange yet beautiful objects.

When her father's mysterious job transports her and her family to the quaint Parisian subu...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published December 4th 2012 by Harper
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The two stars are for the look and feel of the book itself and for Matthew Nelson's lovely drawings.

I found this book impossible to relate to. The obsession with objects and the book-report-like footnotes served no purpose but to keep the reader at a distance by avoiding human emotion. There is no humor in the book; instead, LaCava takes herself and her experience so seriously that it's confusing. I wanted to laugh when she walked out of the dance and threw herself face-down into the dirt with...more
Awful. Irritating self-indulgent author, and it needed much tighter editing. Its title was misleading. Only good thing was the content of the footnotes, but with the way the book was designed, these broke up the reading experience and were an irritation. it's a shame you can't jusge a book by its cover, as it's a gorgeous looking book. Fail.
A book more concept than content; more mood than meaning, and ultimately, as ephemeral and snooty as the fashion mags the author refers to repeatedly. Two stars to honor the interesting concept and lovely drawings; other than that, this book taught me little about LaCava's life or her obsession with things.

What seems like it began as a promising personal essay for a CNF class became a strangely elided memoir. Although some scenes from LaCava's life are clearly drawn, others are simply confusing...more
I bought this in Paris at the Bookmarc store as I'm a sucker for a nicely produced hardback and it was set in Paris. I'm sure if she weren't known for writing in fashion this would not have got published. Much as I liked sections of it, I felt uncomfortable after I finished it. She writes about her depression but doesn't account for how she got through it. I really think she glamorises anorexia. She takes the narrative to a point where she collapses after not eating for several days and talks ab...more
I really wanted to this book to be so much more. As an Interior Designer, the premise was intriguing as I, too, was one of those girls who believes in creating one's own world and I am drawn to and hold dear special objects. While I think Ms LaCava's book aimed for quirky this book was awkward and disjointed and also a little whiny. I imagine it can be hard to be whisked away to France during one's tween years, however, it's hard to sympathize with the author. I do empathize with her struggle ov...more
Have I mentioned that I will do anything Flavorpill tells me to?

Here's what they say about this one, which is on their "10 New Must-Reads for December" list:

A collector to her bones, Stephanie LaCava’s first book is a series of wistfully illustrated essays that lead us through her youth growing up in a foreign land, dropping precious objects like breadcrumbs. “I was obsessed with cabinets of curiosities, historical efforts to catalog and control nature’s oddities,” she writes. By the end of thi...more
Woof. A very dear friend sent this to me knowing my affinity for all things Paris. But this book was just narcissistic and pointless, and she isn't actually in Paris for the majority of the book, but the banlieue/suburbs (nitpicking, but valid). The author tries so hard to be deep and eloquent and falls embarrassingly short. The prose reeks of desperation (her depression is kicked off because no boys want to dance with her at a school dance, so she goes into the forest and lays facedown in the d...more
Complete review + Interview with Stephanie LaCava on my blog here:

The book took my breath away.

Precocious children frequently find a way of growing up to be good tellers of their own stories. But this book is different because its power lies not so much in the odd childhood details it gives but in the emotional depth that it shares. The chronology surprised me but I most enjoyed it when it made me feel lost. The book is beautifully bound and features orig...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I didn't know what to expect with this book. While the blurb tells me something ('A haunting and moving collection of original narratives that reveals an expatriate’s coming-of-age in Paris and the magic she finds in ordinary objects.') it didn't convey, I think, the real personality LaCava brings to her book. In further crankiness, I thought the subtitle ('A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris') as off-the-mark as the blurb. I found this book to be a memoir of depression, portrayed in a series of pl...more
Diane S.
This book is a differently and originally written type of memoir. Moving to Paris as a child, Stephanie feels a strong disconnect to her own life and emotions. Objects, which had always been important to her, become even more so as she uses them to feel a connection to life. She collects archaic facts and figures about people and objects and these also help to fill in the void. Quite a different and inventive way to deal with her loneliness and subsequent depression. I love trivia, and O found t...more
This was an interesting little book. A memoir about the author's time that she lived in France with her family as an early adolescent. She struggles with depression and she collects objects that she finds interesting and surrounds herself with these objects as well as facts, lists, etc. in an effort to make sense of her life and the people in it.

I think there is a heavier message than this book was able to convey and it did not appear to me that the author learned all that much about herself (as...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I sympathized with the author as a child who feels detached from the world around her, but the book really reads like a long essay. Nothing is resolved, no conclusions are neatly pulled together, which I found a bit disappointing. There is no ending, and I have questions. Does the author suffer from another breakdown? Has she sought help for her depression? There is a sense of sweetness to the story, but overall I found it just a little too vague.
In Stephanie LaCava's An Extraordinary Theory of Objects, a young Stephie details her family's move to Le Vesinet, France and her feelings at being separated from friends and life in the United States. Always (by her own accounts) a little odd, Stephie continues her habit of collecting objects that bring her meaning. As her account details her coming of age, a generally carefree Stephie becomes increasingly troubled, and her interactions with intriguing boys and reigning "mean girls" at her inte...more
A very lovely memoir through objects & curiosities, Stephanie LaCava takes her vulnerabilities & inner wonder, performs alchemy & creates a wonderous tale of whimsy that is relatable to any whom have also felt this same disconnectedness from the rest of the world. A fragile work of inner strength & imagination.
Brandy Shark
If only we could give half stars, I want to rate this as a 3.5.

LaCava reminded me of myself a bit as a child and teen. Being a bit odd, the fascination with collecting things. The writing style is beautiful, but for a memoir, it's very disjointed. It starts strong, but there isn't a rhyme or reason to the massive time jumps. There are certain areas that I think she should have expanded upon (like her treatment after her mental breakdown) and towards the end, she's not very clear why she is going...more
Mason Jones
This is a peculiar little book. It is a memoir of sorts, documenting the author's traumatic transition at age 12 when her family moves to the Parisian suburb of Le Vésinet. It's also a story of privilege, selfishness, and mental instability, but those are almost subcurrents that thread among the disparate memories that make up the book's chapters. Each chapter is a bit like a disassociative memory as the book proceeds bit by bit through the months and then years, skipping a decade ahead towards...more
Vanessa Crooks
I decided to read this book precisely because of an interview the author, Stephanie LaCava, did in Vogue (the magazine for which she actually writes frequently) regarding the release of her book. It had only been out for a little while, and it didn't occur to me to look up reviews. The theme of the book interested me because I thought I would be able to identify with it. And in a way I did, but not as much as I would've hoped.
The book is Stephanie's retelling of a time in which she was forced to...more
I found this book so boring that I took nearly a month to read a short 224 pages. I was reading it electronically while devouring more interesting tales in tangible hardback, and perhaps that made a difference as I have read other reviewers comment on the quality of the physical book itself, its beautiful illustrations, and covering. The story, however, was terribly mundane and uninteresting.

Other than the fact that Stephanie was involuntarily relocated to Paris during her turbulent pre-teen yea...more
Stephanie Lacava describes herself as being different. Different from everyone in her family, in her school, everyone in Paris. She obsesses about objects and trinkets, uses them as talismans and collects precious items that helps her cope with the world around her.
Stephanie is a preadolescent when, thanks to her father's secretive and oftentimes mysterious profession, gets uprooted from her friends and her childhood home in America and travel across the Atlantic to reside in a Parisian suburb.

nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
(originally published at

The basics: An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Parisis more about the objects than it is in Paris. In truth, Stephanie LaCava considers herself an outsider whether or not she's in Paris and traces her emotional history through objects.

My thoughts: An Extraordinary Theory of Objectsis a unique memoir. It's told in vignettes of memories and objects. Drawings are paired with lengthy footnotes in the midst of the...more
Ethel Rohan
What is most exceptional about Stephanie LaCava’s memoir The Extraordinary Theory of Objects is that it contains little of Stephanie LaCava. Through story, footnotes, and illustrations by Matthew Nelson, the book chronicles a wide range of people and, most brilliantly, objects. In the first sentence of her introduction, LaCava declares, “I was always strange.” What follows in this brief but gripping memoir is the chronicling of her desire, separateness, depression, loneliness, and her inability...more
"An Extraordinary Theory of Objects" is a very different book, in a wonderful way.
It tells the story of a young girl moving with her parents to France.
Due to her loneliness and difficulty meeting new friends she falls into depression and develops an unusual attachment to objects which seem to give her the stability in life she missed.
Her unique view of objects and their detailed description fascinated me. Through the information she gives in the references, she portrays objects in a completely...more
Maureen Stanton
A thin narrative strand about an alienating adolescent period in Paris is thickened with factoid-laden research on objects. This could be promising, as I love material culture and the stories in objects, but the two strands are most often disconnected. The mere mention of a chair or camera becomes cause for a longish footnote with historic tidbits, but this replaces reflection rather than augments our understanding of the narrator's sensibility or psyche. In other words, what do those particular...more
Tessara Dudley
I was assigned this book for a non-fiction writing class. I wasn't sure I would like it; it took some 25 pages to really get into it. This was due in part to the footnootes, an experimental feature that broke the flow of reading too much to be very enjoyable.

This book is best suited to 20-somethings who spent their younger years as misunderstood, alienated children who struggled to make friends and hold onto reality, like LaCava and myself.
Kimberly Horch
I loved the format! Very unique and interesting! I feel like I learned a lot about a style so far from my own.

I was disappointed by the story though. I guess there's not much you can do about a bad storyline when it's your memoir... I suppose it is what it is. I felt like it was built up to go somewhere and then just fizzled out without any sort of conclusion or catharsis. I was a little depressed afterwards actually.
I'm not sure what to say about this book, because the things I liked and didn't like about it are the same things. Yes, I found the footnotes disruptive and a little tedious to read, except I mostly enjoyed their content. Yes, the actual narrative is very sparse and not that interesting, but maybe that was the point - and I think descriptions of adolescent angst definitely benefit from brevity. Neither the story nor the footnotes can really stand on their own, which seems either clever or preten...more
Loved the look of the book and the little pen and ink illustrations. Enjoyed the first few chapters - an insight into the self-absorption that is the young teenage state, but the got increasingly frustrated with the fact that the writer never grew up or got past that phase and developed any sort of adult perspective.
I liked this a lot. It reminded me of some other slim, spare novels about disaffected young women in Europe, such as Bonjour Tristesse, which LaCava often alludes to. The book itself is a thing of beauty, cloth-bound, illustrated in black and white. I loved the illustrations, and I liked the idea of footnotes, but I didn't like being interrupted by them.

I had no idea who the author was, or from what milieu she came when I started reading, but I quickly discovered that she's not like the rest of...more
A sensitive memoir about the author's breakdown in Paris as a teenager, but via the physical talismans that gave her meaning and distraction from difficult emotions. Contains lovely illustrations and footnoted objective histories of the objects themselves.

Exquisite - there's a detachment from the emotions, which might be unfamiliar to readers who are used to the more common messy, emotive, drug-filled narratives of breakdowns, and an understatedness to the prose, but for me that served the grea...more
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HarperCollins Int...: NEW Giveaway - Open to the UK, ANZ and India, too! 6 67 Oct 19, 2012 02:02AM  
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Stephanie LaCava is a journalist and writer working in New York City and Paris. She began her career at Vogue, in fashion and later in features, where she assisted the European Editor-at-Large of the magazine. Her writing has appeared in print and online publications such as Vogue, The Paris Review, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Interview, and Garage. She also works in translation, in part...more
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