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Paris Was the Place
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Paris Was the Place

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,020 ratings  ·  201 reviews
When Willie Pears begins teaching at a center for immigrant girls who are all hoping for French asylum, she has no idea it will change her life. As she learns their stories, the lines between teaching and mothering quickly begin to blur. Willie has fled to Paris to create a new family for herself by reaching out to her beloved brother, Luke, and her straight-talking friend ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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3.44  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,020 ratings  ·  201 reviews

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Jul 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book in a Firstreads giveaway.

Willow Pears lives in Paris, teaching poetry, and volunteering at a center off the Rue De la Metz for girls that are seeking asylum from immigration laws trying to send them back to their home countries. At the center, Willie, befriends the girls from all over the world and becomes attached to one in particular, Gita from India. She also falls in love with Macon, the lawyer fighting for these girls' asylum in France.

Willie is still having a tough time d
Nancy Meservier
Paris Was the Place is an interesting read. I didn't think it was a bad book. In fact, there were some parts of it that I quite liked. Unfortunately, the book as a whole didn't mesh well with me. Most of my issues stem from the fact that it felt very unfocused. We have the story of Willow teaching poetry to immigrants seeking asylum. Willow's relationship with her brother, and flash backs of her family. A romantic storyline with a lawyer. A trip to India. Etc. Unfortunately, none of these storyl ...more
Randee Baty
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the type of book that reminds me why I love to read. I'm completely caught up in a different world than my own.

The setting is Paris, which I love, and I can see the city as the characters describe it. The main character is a young American poetry teacher who teaches in a French academy. Her brother and his boyfriend also live in Paris. Her best friend and her husband live there as well.

Willie, short for Willow, is asked to teach a poetry class in a detainment center where teenage girls
The characters in this novel were so flat, I think if I pushed them too hard they would tip over. I cared about none of these characters; they didn't really give me a reason to connect with them. And the whole (view spoiler) Macon as a character was just very flat and he said things that I was like "I don't really think you have a real basis to ...more
I LOVE Paris but I struggled to connect with this story.
At the beginning, I was sucked into the section about the main character's work with the immigrants at the detention centre. It was so promising!! I expected so much more with regards to the girls seeking asylum in France and the main character's relationship with these girls. That’s what I was really looking forward to.
Then the story line about the main character's brother takes over.
You get the impression that this is a case of two sho
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
Full disclosure - I received a free copy of this book as part of the Amazon Vine program.

Historical novels that take place during one’s adult life are a different reading experience than books set in the distant past. When I read a book set in the Napoleonic era, I’m not mentally arguing with the author about the realities of the time.

Paris Was The Place is the story of Willie, which is short for Willow. Anachronism #1 – hippie babies were being born in the 80s, not 30 years old. Willow? Not so
Aug 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I liked this book. But, I didn't like how it began. Not the story part; it just didn't grab me like a good book "out of the gates" grabs you. So I went several days without "wanting" to read it. It did gather speed about midway through and then I wanted to see what was going to happen. I believe that the reason for this was that I really didn't know where this story was going. Who was the story about. Was it about the girls that Willow was trying to help at the shelter? Was it about Willow's bro ...more
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received an advanced copy from Elle magazine for review.

This is a perfect summer read. From Paris to India, from love to friendship, this novel covers Paris is a character itself in this novel. The description of the streets, the sights, and the people were so well written, I felt as if I was walking through Paris myself. And then the novel takes a detour to India, and again I felt I had been to this country that I have never been to before. The novel transports you to these places, and also t
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Sentimental, heartfelt, eloquently visual, this book draws you into Paris in a realistic and captivating way. The narrator is distinctly human, flawed but trying, good-intentioned and young. Her job to help her students unfolds in an emotional story about generosity, family, loneliness, and so much more. As a romance and coming-of-age story the plot is a definite success for me. It contains many touching and tender moments, and while it is tragic it is also hopeful.
This book captures what it's
Cindy Fox
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: paris, india
Disappointing, I was interested in the plight of young refugee girls, about to be deported from Paris, but I found the leading character torn in too many directions to fully engage in any one of the themes in the book - the loss of her mother, the isolation from her father, her first real love affair, her brother's illness, her friend's new baby, the poems of an Indian woman, a quick trip to India, and the plight of the refugees. Scattered!
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Susan Conley is a very talented writer. I love reading about Paris. Books that take place in Paris are right up my alley. This was not the usual. Not only did Conley manage to bring Paris to life like never before, she also gave me a view of India that I might never have experienced without having read this novel. Although some of the content is sad and deals with dire illness, I have ended up with a very good impression. Not for the faint of heart, but do take this one in.
Megan Tedeschi
May 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book was so bad I could only (barely and with a lot of eye rolling and wondering what the heck she is even talking about) read 20 pages and then had to immediately return it to the library.
Mary Mitchell
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book follows the protagonist, Willie (short for Willow), as she becomes involved with a group of young girls seeking asylum in France through teaching them poetry. Along the way, her beloved only brother is diagnosed with AIDS, she falls in love, and she examines her tumultuous relationship to both her students and her eccentric father. By the end, Willie has experienced agonizing loss, forgiveness, and great love, and is the better for all three.
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-clubs
Set in Paris, this novel tries to do so much with major themes: parental-child and family relationships, illness and loss, sexual abuse, separation from family and home, identity and loss of it, etc. The two main storylines and their themes are both equally important and relevant today, especially the part relating to immigration and the detention center for women seeking asylum. Unfortunately the narrative lost equilibrium as the detention center topic, the plight of young women seeking asylum ...more
Debbie Campbell
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought this book gave a good explanation of what we lose of our histories when we lose somebody we love. Some people thought it was unconnected but that’s how life is and how all these different stories influence our lives.
Oct 30, 2013 rated it liked it
I had a bit of an up and down reaction to this book. Told in the first person, this perhaps was my largest difficulty. I will admit to being harsh about first person narrative, there is a fine line between moving a story forward with a character’s voice and bringing the forward motion to a complete halt with inclusions of all the ephemera that we normally wouldn’t share with our friends during the day. Here often was a problem as descriptions of numerous Metro journeys, that weren’t used to expl ...more
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
I spent the first quarter really annoyed with the book and annoyed with the main character but I also couldn't put it down - I feel like I finished it more out of a sense of frustration than anything. I was really interested in the story of the asylum seekers more than anything. However, they are just a plot device to give this otherwise stock-character-filled novel something interesting. None of the other story lines or characters were special or unique or particularly new - BUT there is a reas ...more
May 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
I received this book from GoodReads First Reads

Willie Pears begins teaching immigrant girls at a center for those seeking French asylum. As she learns their stories and the legal procedures involved, Willie desperately hopes for the best, often glossing over continuous doses of shrewd advice from the French lawyer, Macon. Grappling with her feelings toward Macon, her brother's failing health, and her determination to protect Gita, a young girl from the center, Willie is forced to examine the l
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Willow Pears is an American teaching in Paris; she spends her spare time helping girls in a refugee center prepare for their immigration hearings. In the process, she finds herself falling in love with human rights attorney Macon Ventri ... but nothing about their story is romantic.

From the painful stories of young women fleeing rape, sex trafficking and more in their countries of origin (not much has changed since the late 1980s, when this book is set), to the challenges of the earliest days of
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
"I've spent the last week listening to Paris Was The Place while I walked these lovely fall afternoons along the ocean, and I wept, again and again. I was captivated by the story while I chopped and stirred ratatouille. I kept listening when I climbed under the covers these early chilly evenings. I couldn't let go of the story. The characters continue to live in me after the last lines. I was in awe of your creating these characters that moved me to tears. I was so touched by their depth, their ...more
Beth Hartnett
Sep 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Let me start out by saying that I am a huge Susan Conley fan and I look forward to reading her second novel. Her first book, a memoir, is on my Favorites shelf and I had the foremost good fortune of meeting her in Portsmouth. Her first novel has a lot going for it. First of all, it is set in Paris, a magical city I know fairly well and love. The characters are interesting and she succeds in pulling you into their lives and making you care about them. There are snatches of fabulous writing that l ...more
Karen Michele
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Overall, I enjoyed Paris was the Place, but I did feel that after being engaged in the story of Willow's work with immigrant girls, their different stories, her attachment to one of the girls and her love for Macon, the lawyer trying to help the girls stay in Paris for half of the book, I was suddenly drawn in to a different story. Willow's gay brother, Luke, is an important part of her life in Paris and her relationship with him and his partner help fill in the backstory of her life before Pari ...more
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
I did not care for this book at all. The word "disjointed" came to mind several times as I was reading. This book could not decide what it wanted to be about, and as a result it never became a cohesive, clear story. I liked the premise, about a teacher in Paris who is hired to teach poetry to foreign girls in a home who are petitioning for asylum. These girls have no family and have suffered serious hardships in their lives, so I thought the book would mostly focus on them and their journeys. Ho ...more
Clare Morin
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A deeply satisfying read that takes you to Paris, to the romantic beaches of France and the grubby backstreets, into hospitals and a refugee detention center. It takes you deeply into a woman's heart - and on a journey as that heart gets tested and pulled through pain and bliss. I loved reading this book. The characters followed me as I walked about my life. It made me question the stories hiding behind the faces that passed me on the street. It made me want to look more closely. It made me feel ...more
Jane Brant
May 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
While like most expats trying to escape themselves and their lives, Willow goes to Paris where the "greats" like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Stein also went to find a new, more meaningful life. But I was pleasantly surprised by the sensitivity and selflessness of the main character Willow when she loves and cares for her friends, her students, and her family. While the story is heartbreaking when her brother loses his battle with AIDS, it is redemptive in how people with differences come together ...more
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm still thinking so much about Willie and Macon, and Luke, long after I finished this book. Usually books set in Paris make the city a huge presence, impressing us with its beauty and romance-- but here Susan Conley has made Paris a very realistic place. Refugees live there, people become ill, hearts are broken-- all taking place along the amazing picturesqueness of the city. Looking forward to reading the author's previous book now!
Nov 23, 2016 rated it liked it
This was a good story and well written. I did figure out what was wrong with the brother very early on but that predictability didn't hurt the story, in fact it just helped remind me what things were like with disease in the 80's. I do wish Goodreads allowed 1/2 stars I had a hard time deciding between 3 and 4 but in the end I choose 3 because I felt like the nice pretty bow that it was wrapped up in the end was too predictable.
This read like a biography. It felt so real, I had to check to see that it was fiction. Susan Conley does a great job describing situations and feelings. I felt like I was there with my heart breaking with the girls in the center, traveling through India, as well as with everything she feels for her family.
Aug 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
Disappointing. I found the writing style to be very disjointed. The writer would be in the middle of a thought then add in some random was hard to follow and the character development was very poor.
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a gorgeous book. And it's set in France and India. What more could you want for your perfect summer novel?
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Susan Conley is the author of Elsey Come Home (Knopf, January 2019), a Library Journal Pre-Pub Alert pick for January. Kirkus writes that the "novel illustrates the power of storytelling as a process for healing. What entices and endures here is the voice: dreamy, meditative, hypnotic, and very real."
Susan is also the author of Paris Was the Place (Knopf, August 2013), an Amazon Fall Big Books Pic
“Here it is out in the open and based—like all love is, maybe—on some amount of abiding affection and on some other amount of need.” 0 likes
“I can’t help smiling. He’s the reminder of the best part of our family. He’s me and not me. Better than me, because he sees me from afar and still loves me in a way that I can’t always love myself. And who can do that? Stop judging themselves?” 0 likes
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