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The Paris Key

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An American in Paris navigates her family's secret past and unlocks her own future, in this emotionally evocative novel by New York Times bestselling author Juliet Blackwell.

As a girl, Genevieve Martin spent the happiest summer of her life in Paris, learning the delicate art of locksmithing at her uncle's side. But since then, living back in the States, she has become more private, more subdued. She has been an observer of life rather than an active participant, holding herself back from those around her, including her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Paris never really left Genevieve, and, as her marriage crumbles, she finds herself faced with an incredible opportunity: return to the magical city of her youth to take over her late uncle's shop. But as she absorbs all that Parisian culture has to offer, she realizes the city also holds secrets about her family that could change her forever, and that locked doors can protect you or imprison you, depending on which side of them you stand.

384 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 2015

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About the author

Juliet Blackwell

37 books2,684 followers
Juliet Blackwell (aka Julie Goodson-Lawes, aka Hailey Lind) started out life in Palo Alto, California, born of a Texan mother and a Yankee father. The family soon moved to what were, at the time, the sticks of Cupertino, an hour south of San Francisco. Walking to and from kindergarten every day she would indulge in her earliest larcenous activity: stealing walnuts and apricots from surrounding orchards.

By the time she graduated middle school, the orchards were disappearing and the valley at the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay had become the cradle of the silicon semi-conductor. A man named Steve Jobs was working in his garage in Cupertino, just down the street. Juliet's father advised his daughters to enter the lucrative and soon-to-flourish field of computers.

"Bah" said Juliet, as she went on to major in Latin American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz (they had, by far, the best parties of any department). Rather than making scads of money in computers, she read, painted, learned Spanish and a little French and Vietnamese, lived in Spain and traveled through Europe, Mexico, and Central America. She had a very good time.

Juliet pursued graduate degrees in Anthropology and Social Work at the State University of New York at Albany, where she published several non-fiction articles on immigration as well as one book-length translation. Fascinated with other cultural systems, she studied the religions, folklore and medical beliefs of peoples around the world, especially in Latin America. Juliet taught the anthropology of health and health care at SUNY-Albany, and worked as an elementary school social worker in upstate New York. She also did field projects in Mexico and Cuba, studied in Spain, Italy, and France, worked on a BBC production in the Philippines, taught English as a second language in San Jose, and learned how to faux finish walls in Princeton, New Jersey. After having a son, moving back to California, and abandoning her half-written dissertation in cultural anthropology, Juliet started painting murals and portraits for a living. She has run her own mural/faux finish design studio in Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco, for more than a decade. She specializes in the aesthetic renovation of historic homes.

Finally, to round out her tour of lucrative careers, Juliet turned to writing. Under the pseudonym of Hailey Lind, Juliet penned the Art Lover's Mystery Series with her sister Carolyn, about an ex-art forger trying to go straight by working as a muralist and faux finisher in San Francisco. The first of these, Feint of Art, was nominated for an Agatha Award; Shooting Gallery and Brush with Death were both IMBA bestsellers, and Arsenic and Old Paint is now available from Perseverance Press.

Juliet's Witchcraft Mystery series, about a witch who finally finds a place to fit in when she opens a vintage clothes shop on Haight Street in San Francisco, allows Juliet to indulge yet another interest—the world of witchcraft and the supernatural. Ever since her favorite aunt taught her about reading cards and tea leaves, Juliet has been fascinated with seers, conjurers, and covens from many different cultures and historic traditions. As an anthropologist, the author studied and taught about systems of spirituality, magic, and medicine throughout the world, especially in Latin America. Halloween is by far her favorite holiday.

When not writing, painting, or haranguing her funny but cynical teenaged son, Juliet spends a lot of time restoring her happily haunted house and gardening with Oscar the cat, who ostensibly belongs to the neighbors but won't leave her alone. He started hanging around when Juliet started writing about witches...funny coincidence.

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5 stars
998 (20%)
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1,942 (40%)
3 stars
1,465 (30%)
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67 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 594 reviews
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,540 reviews9,968 followers
September 18, 2016

Genevieve's uncle who lived in Paris passed away and since she is getting divorced from her cheating husband, Jason, she decides to go to Paris. Her cousin Catharine asks her to come over and try to sort things out.

I really loved that Genevieve went to Paris and she got to see some friends that she couldn't even remember from when she was little. She had spent time over there with her uncle Dave and his wife and he taught her all about being a locksmith!


Genevieve always wore a key around her neck as well. She really loved her time in Paris and was upset when she had to come home.


Her uncle Dave always used to say, "Remember the locksmiths' code, Genevieve. Never reveal the secrets you find behind locked doors, and never--ever!--abuse the power to open a lock."

I was confused several times because the book would go back and forth from the time Genevieve's mom visiting Paris to the time Genevieve was there now and when she was young. The thing with Genevieve's mom Angela is that she died when Genevieve was young and she wanted to learn more about her. But be careful what you wish for . . .

Genevieve also has a brother named Nick but they weren't close. He already knows about the revelations and talks to her about it. I was like, "Hello! Couldn't you have mentioned it sooner!"

As soon as Genevieve arrives in uncle Dave's home/work, the doorbell rings and it's an old friend of the family named Philippe. He was so kind and he wanted her to help him with some locks. She put him off but then decided to help, she unlocked many doors. I think it is just so cool to be able to do that with the old houses over there. Genevieve did have a nice time over there.

Genevieve met a man named Killian O'Mara. He was a very nice guy and I like to hope they get something together in the future. He took her to see the Love Locks Bridge, he wanted to take her picture there her being a locksmith and all.


Unfortunately, Genevieve had to go home and deal with all of the things with visa, etc. so she could come back. At the moment she wasn't sure she was going to come back with the revelations she found out. I mean they were big ones. But . . . Under Lock and Key had to have someone run the place and they all wanted a new locksmith in the area. ♥

I thought this book was really sweet even though, like I said, I was confused at times. I think re-reading a book like this will give a better understand the next time around.

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.
1,083 reviews1,412 followers
February 13, 2017

Paris, memories, keys, and family secrets.

Genevieve needed to go back to Paris to her uncle's shop not only to get away from her soon-to-be ex-husband, but to take over Uncle Dave's lock and key shop​ that she had loved as a child​. Little did she know that she would find family secrets as well.

Both her mother and uncle had passed, but the city held wonderful memories for Genevieve as well as for her mother as we go back and forth in time seeing Angela, Genevieve's mother, in Paris and her uncle who fell in love in Paris and stayed after the war.

Her uncle taught her a locksmith's tricks of the trade when she was twelve, and she wanted to try her hand at it again. As her uncle told her all the time, "Locksmiths Laugh At Love and Love Has Its Own Set of Burglar Keys." Genevieve wanted to re-live her times in his shop and to experience Paris as an adult as her mother had done.

When Genevieve explores a house where she is fixing locks and finds secret passages from WWII that have a connection to her mother's time in Paris, you will become totally absorbed in the storyline.

​THE PARIS KEY ​​has you falling in love with the City of Lights as Ms. Blackwell describes the bakeries, the wine, the cheese, and the people. Ms. Blackwell’s writing style is so intriguing that you feel as though you are right there.

And…we can’t have a book about Paris without love. Love that held secrets about her mother and love for Genevieve.

I enjoyed THE PARIS KEY and the marvelous way Ms. Blackwell pulls you in with her descriptions and authenticity of the city.

If you have never been to Paris, THE PARIS KEY will make you want to get on the next plane. :)

ENJOY!!! I certainly did. 5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Holly in Bookland.
1,080 reviews442 followers
October 30, 2015
This book made me fall in love with Paris. I could just imagine myself walking along with Genevieve while she sat at a cafe, walked along the cobblestone streets, saw some of the sights, or just being with her in the small neighborhood. It's not a "must-read" or something that's going to excite the masses. It's a book that had me riveted anyway. If a book can make me feel wistful and have me believing that I'm inside the pages, it's worth 5 stars. If only I had the resources and the courage to uproot myself and live in a different country like Genevieve, I would. Loved this quiet, unassuming book.
Profile Image for Karina.
851 reviews
December 30, 2020
2.5 This was okay. Readable but mostly skimmable. I wanted the story to stop repeating why Genevieve was in Paris but I understood the point. I also wanted it to get to the point. It could've been 50-75 pages shorter. It was annoying that being an American was almost unwelcome at all points in the story (but I get that too).

I liked learning about the underground tunnels (catacombs). That was creepy and exciting to read about. It was interesting that Genie was into being a locksmith professionally.

I didn't connect with all characters and I figured out the plot early on but didn't stop me from finishing it.

Glad I am done with this one.
Profile Image for Ashley.
180 reviews19 followers
March 26, 2016
I picked up this book because I needed something that would be fairly quick to listen to during my commute to and from work this past week. I thought this book sounded kind of interesting, but if I'm being honest with myself I truly decided to read it because I liked the cover. I know. Horrible!

After finding out her husband has been having an affair, Genevieve decides to move to Paris to take over her recently deceased uncle's locksmith shop. Her aunt, who suffers from Alzheimer's, thinks Genevieve is her mother, Angela, and makes a statement that leaves Genevieve wondering what happened to her mother during a sporadic trip to Paris more than 30 years ago. Sometimes our parents aren't who we thought they were. Sometimes they leave us before we have a chance to know them as people and individuals instead of as our parents.

The story follows three timelines: Genevieve during the present, Genevieve during her first trip to Paris in the 1990s and Angela in Paris in 1983. I do like stories with alternating timelines that lead up to some big revelation, but this book honestly never got there. It had such potential. So many things could have happened! Yet, I was left feeling deflated and disappointed. I debated between giving the book two stars or three stars and decided on three stars because even though it fell flat in the end, the anticipation was exciting.
Profile Image for Laurence R..
617 reviews86 followers
September 10, 2015
While this novel is certainly not my favorite, I really liked it!

As a French speaking person, books where there's French and English are always ones that I enjoy, because I get to compare two languages and see how hard it is to do the opposite of what I did, which was learn English. Although I'm not actually French and I've unfortunatelt never been to Paris, I love to read about France in general, because my family comes from there and it sounds beautiful and amazing, except from the rude waiters, maybe. I liked to see the city through the eyes of someone who struggles with French and who's considering moving altogether to Paris, since moving to another country has always sounded incredible and romantic to me, even though it's way too scary for me to attempt it in a near future. I was relieved to see how Genevieve struggles with immigration and feels like giving up sometimes, because otherwise it wouldn't have been realistic and it would've bugged me the whole time, preventing me from enjoying this novel.

The writing style is great. I loved the alternated stories told in different chapters, because I had a better idea of the entire scheme that way. It helped me view the story as it is, instead of clouded by a character's opinion, which I really liked. I think that it could've been told only in Angela and Genevieve's perspectives, because they're the most important characters and their sides of the story are the most different.

I enjoyed the intriguing part of this story. There's one plot twist that I saw coming from the very beginning, so I was deceived to see that I had known it all this time and that it was so obvious. However, I remained curious about other parts of the story, which is why I continued reading, anxious and doubting every sentence, trying to figure out the truth. I wasn't expecting to read a mystery book, but it ended up being a little bit like that, which I welcomed happily.

The plot is interesting, even though I wish some details were more in depth. Genevieve's divorce seemed very mature to me in the end, because she truly got to know herself better and figure out the reasons behind her actions. I particularly liked seeing her understand her mother, herself and her friends better, because it shows a lot of character development that's well displayed.

I would recommend this novel, especially to Paris lovers and locksmiths out there.

(Thank you Edelweiss for providing me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)
August 7, 2016
I loved "The Paris Key". A few elements in the approach kept the book from reaching full-fledged éclat. I enjoyed Juliet's capable venture into standard adult fiction. She could burst out from the "cozy genre" bonds more boldly and needn't have translated obvious French words but wrote a fine novel. I merely loathe synopsises that dramatically tout discoveries purportedly "reshaping the history of a family, forever!" These revelations solely concern Angel's 1983 summer. Something more ancient or at least ancestrally far-reaching could have sparkled.

What Juliet chose as secrets could be scintillating but she needed to build drama into the one that we easily know long before Genevieve does. A background event that comprises another secret needed to be foreshadowed or discussed by neighbours, to germinate into something meaningful to readers and become a much more explosive revelation than it was. It is a one-time political incident that has no potency for us because it is not presented until we glimpse it taking place near the end. It is worth bolstering suspense by tidying-up the telling: generating that éclat, abbreviating food descriptions, and divorce musing.

I couldn't help supposing that Angel's boxes contain informative letters. A child would memorize every inch of an absent parent's belongings. I dislike the tendency to have characters withholding details that are of import. It becomes preposterous and pointlessly cliché when subjects are deceased. It obliterates all objection to their offspring knowing everything. A small critique: general descriptions circled back too often to calling things dusty and rusty. The key necklace in particular would have been cleaned and restored by Uncle Dave decades ago. Its belated role was not made magnetic enough either. These are only small criticisms on the approach and tone of the novel's momentum, that when polished, sum-up into one more star.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,977 reviews53 followers
September 21, 2016

3 stars. I liked the characters in this story. I also liked that the story had different threads to follow. I think sometimes they needed a little more depth. But even with that being said, some of the scenes were written so well, I felt I was actually there watching it. I think the depth I wanted was with the characters and how they got from point A to point B. There seemed to be an awful lot of leaping over given facts, which then always resulted in long wordy explanations to explain what just happened.

Overall, I did care about the characters and the outcome...so 3 stars.
Profile Image for Alia.
3 reviews
June 1, 2020
I found this book to be rather predictable. Though it is a cute story, I was a little disappointed. The writing however in which Paris is described is absolutely beautiful, so much so that I could almost imagine walking the streets of Paris myself.
Profile Image for Sheree.
572 reviews106 followers
September 26, 2015
Ooh I loved this ... falling in love with a cover paid off this time.

Why I loved it? ... just because. Does that cut it? It's a story that spoke to me for no one reason I can put my finger on ... it just did.

... "there is something delightful about helping a key find its way back to a lock, so it can do the work it was meant for. "

"Are you going to let yourself be defeated by a little lock? Remember Genevieve: Love laughs at locksmiths! Trust your old uncle."

The story moves seamlessly from Genevieve in the present day to her time in Paris as a teenager staying with uncle Dave and tante Pasquale, to her mother Angela's bittersweet time in Paris. I was captivated by it all.

I loved the symbolism ... secrets, locks ... opening your heart to new experiences, life and love.

All the talk about boulangerie's, baguette's, pain au chocolat had me longing once more for Paris.

The story felt like Paris ... that beguiling mix of old fashioned values and sophistication, lingering over conversations, good food and wine, enjoying simple pleasures.

Walking in Paris with Genevieve felt intimate, discovering along with her, places I've visited and some I'm adding to the bucket list ... Village Saint-Paul, Montparnasse cemetry, Le Pont Traversé (the old butcher's bookshop.) I loved her interactions in Paris, her struggles with French bureaucracy and efforts to learn the language.

I adored Genevieve's Parisian friend Sylviane. I could read a book about her ... how 'bout it Juliet?

The Paris Key is a story about secrets, family, friends and discovering one's true self ... in Paris.

It's warm and touching and delightful.

A just-because-favourite-read this year.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,080 reviews59k followers
October 3, 2015
“Genevieve slid open the 'special' drawer. It was full of ancient keys—many of which, like her necklace, bore little resemblance to keys today. She smiled as she picked up a black iron ring, from which jangled a dozen different skeleton keys: she remembered her uncle explaining that this was a Victorian-era thief's ring. Dave had always intended to write a book about such historic hardware.”

“Complete with photos, Genevieve, what to do you think? C'est super, n'est pas? I am going to call it: Love Laughs at Locksmiths. Or maybe, The Paris Key, because really, Paris is the key to happiness! What do you think?

I enjoyed this charming ode to Paris, France, and loved walking along the streets of Paris with Genevieve as she comes full circle back to the place that makes her happy and gives her hope.

I recommended this book to those who enjoy contemporary fiction, Chick-lit, or women's fiction. 4 stars

This review is the copyrighted property of Night Owl Reviews

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Profile Image for Citra .
177 reviews28 followers
May 31, 2017
Full review is here @Fictionbookreview.com

A bit too predictable for my taste. The writing is beautiful, however, it's like exploring Paris yourself and this book makes me want to go there. Oh, how I wish there are twist and turns, the book would be much more interesting. The clues are just too big, as a book about a woman trying to uncover the family's past, this book is far from mysterious.
Profile Image for LORI CASWELL.
2,482 reviews280 followers
January 16, 2016

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Genevieve Martin returns to Paris after her uncle passes away to take over his locksmith shop. There is so much bureaucratic red tape for her to be able to work as a locksmith in Paris so she is unsure how long she will actually be able to stay, but she hopes things work out. Her aunt is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s and her cousin has no desire to take over her father’s business. Before Genevieve has time to sleep off the jet lag she has customers at her door. The neighbors are friendly for the most part and take her under their wing. She tries to settle in but then she starts to discover secrets about her mother that could change her entire life. What a story!!!

The story travels between Genevieve’s life now, and when she visited Paris in 1997, and her mother Angela’s life in the early 80’s. It does get a little confusing at times because so many people intersect over all three time periods but the chapters are clearly labeled which helps. These are rich characters and some things they go through are heartbreaking. They both have escaped to Paris, Angela questioning her life and her marriage, Genevieve after her mother dies and now as her divorce is close to final. It was so nice to see Paris through their eyes. The descriptions were vivid and easy to envision. How different things looked from Genevieve the child to Genevieve the adult. Love for Paris shines brightly.

The story itself was all about family, the journey, the good times and the bad, unlocking memories and secrets. This story has much more depth than I originally expected. I found myself absolutely and totally escaping into this book. I have enjoyed Juliet Blackwell’s mysteries so I knew I would enjoy the story but I was truly blown away. I hated to reach the last page. I have never been to Paris but after reading this book I hope to travel there someday.

Thank you Ms. Blackwell for taking me on this amazing journey.
Profile Image for Theresa.
274 reviews17 followers
July 24, 2017
DNF - 85%

Why did I spend so much time reading a book where nothing has happened?

Blackwell does a really good job covering up her lack of plot with beautiful settings and great characterization. And why did we need all the flashbacks to the mom? Oh, that's right: the most predictable ending in literary history.

I wanted to love this book, because I love books set in Paris. I fell in instalove with the cover and couldn't wait to just get swept off my feet. But between a narrator that was really quite dull and repetitive descriptions, I was ready to sweep this one into the trash. But I kept trying to persist through it, but lately every time I hit play I made an excuse to turn it off.

The only people I would recommend this book to are those who magically happened upon a time turner; there's no need to waste precious time on this one.
Profile Image for Bridget Vollmer.
393 reviews37 followers
August 22, 2017
2 1/2 stars

I was really disappointed in this book, I found it boring and drawn out. I disliked the two main characters ( the mom and daughter) -

The writing and visual descriptions of Paris were nice, but not much seemed to be happening throughout the majority of the book and the cliff hanger was pretty obvious early on.

Overall, this book was very underwhelming.
Profile Image for D.
525 reviews64 followers
July 5, 2019
Very light but pleasant reading. A bit repetitive at times.
Profile Image for Mystica.
1,390 reviews24 followers
August 22, 2015
I like stories set in two time lines, two characters, two cities. This ticked all the boxes. Alternately the story of Angela (mother) and Genevieve (daughter) set in America and Paris and in two distinct time frames made for a evocative, emotional, beautiful story.

On the death of her mother and uncle, Genevieve returns to Paris to try to organise her life, her thoughts and her future. With an interest in the art of locksmiths and a natural talent for it, she takes over her late uncle's shop in the heart of Paris and tries to sort out what she needs to do next. Her marriage to Jason is obviously over, and she is very unsettled as to why her mother behaved the way she did. She knows there are secrets but with her father dead and her brother oblivious to the more emotional parts of her parents lives, she knows she has to try to ferret out what she feels was some hidden mystery and begin to be at peace with herself. What she unravels is something much bigger than she would have imagined and several unexplained mysteries in her life become much clearer.

With several characters who were stories in themselves (Phillipe for one), the Paris setting, the detailed descriptiveness of Paris would influence anyone to make a beeline for this city! and the alternating stories told in alternating time frames all put together make for a book you cannot put down.
Profile Image for Tori.
710 reviews11 followers
March 28, 2016
Juliet Blackwell is such a consistently good author. I had originally read her Art Lover's Mystery series of books. The co-author of those books was Blackwell's sister, who also happened to be one of my daughter's college teachers. Anyway, those four mysteries, under the name of Hailey Lind, were a lot of fun.
This book was a lot of fun, too! Genevieve (what a gorgeous French pronunciation is included in the story!) and her husband Jason are divorcing, so Genevieve decides to go to Paris to possibly take over her uncle's locksmith shop. He has recently passed on, and she had very fond memories of him and Paris when she was a young teenager. She had gone there after her mother had died, and Uncle Dave had ended up teaching her the art of being a locksmith.
I loved the characters in the story - they are all individuals and well drawn, and very believable. Genevieve discovers some things about her past there, and also ends up becoming more of who she was meant to be.
I would love to know if the places Blackwell mentions in the story are real. If so, I would love to read the book again and take notes of all the wonderful places I would love to visit if I were to go to Paris again.
Profile Image for Mollie.
Author 31 books664 followers
September 20, 2015
Breathtaking. If I could rate it more than five stars, I would.
Profile Image for Karen.
372 reviews4 followers
December 31, 2015
Really enjoyable book about a women escaping to Paris just like she did as a child. Love the locksmith setting and the charm of a neighborhood in Paris.
Profile Image for Ghost of the Library.
346 reviews67 followers
January 26, 2019
Hardly a masterpiece or an eternal classic, this does however manage to be a truly charming read, with some very accurate and deliciously real descriptions of Paris and its inhabitants that made me personally somewhat nostalgic.
The unusual topic - keys and locksmiths - was what drew me to this one, along with yes Paris.
i wont go into a description of story and characters, there's plenty here and much better than what i could pull off, but i can most certainly tell you that Ms. Blackwell was successful in transporting me back to a lovely summer break.
Anyone who has visited Paris, however briefly will enjoy this one - the colors, the sights, the smells of that city are so real and vivid in these pages that i'm yearning for a trip back! the idiosyncrasies that make Parisians so..ahem...unique and unforgettable, jump from the page and make fully excuse the less than perfect prose and the occasional wish to slap some common sense into our leading lady Genevieve...i know, one must be patient and allow her to complete her journey (even if one is capable of guessing how to whole thing will end after oh...35 pages?).
anyways, this is probably one of the finest examples of guilty pleasure chick lit I've read in a long time....highly recommend it for a cozy day in away from the cold or a summer afternoon at the beach!

Happy Readings!
Profile Image for Nora-adrienne.
911 reviews122 followers
September 13, 2015
I love the book. You have to understand that my cousin's wife is Parisian, and I have a cousin on my maternal grandfather's side that has lived in France for decades. She was a club singer and owns a music company called French Fried Music.

The stories I've heard about life in Paris come alive in this book.
Profile Image for Letty.
627 reviews
January 19, 2017
I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book. Brought back wonderful memories of my visit to Paris a few years ago and really made me want to be there. Good story and characters. And in listening to this book, I learned the correct way to pronounce "Genevieve." I've been pronouncing wrong all these years and the correct way sounds beautiful!! I thought the narration was very well done.
Profile Image for Shelby.
532 reviews78 followers
December 4, 2017
Took me a bit to become engrossed in the story, once I did I took my time and enjoyed it.
105 reviews1 follower
April 9, 2023
I really enjoyed this book. It flipped back and forth between characters (mother and daughter) and had a mystery intertwined in the story. I enjoyed all the mentions of life in Paris and the people, places, landmarks, etc. It makes me want to visit! Great read!!
Profile Image for Lesley.
145 reviews2 followers
August 11, 2017
3 1/2 stars. Mainly it just made me want to go to Paris and maybe live there for a year but I would take my husband 😊
Profile Image for Melliott.
1,451 reviews81 followers
May 14, 2020
I liked this book a lot, but my liking is for complicated reasons. Although I expected to like it for a reason that I have enjoyed, for instance, the books of Jenny Colgan—because the main character realized something about herself that made her elect to drastically change her lifestyle—that aspect of it wasn't nearly as powerful as it could have been.

What I loved is the gradual exploration throughout the text of Paris as a city and of the French as a culture, a people, and a lifestyle. The author really got it that the daily priorities in France are completely different from those in America, that it's a slower, more reflective, less frenetic, more contemplative lifestyle, valuing family, friends, and physical experiences such as cooking, eating, walking, sleeping, over career, business, and industriousness. There is a moment when the character, Genevieve, gets it too, when Killian invites her to go somewhere after they have been out and about for a while, and her first impulse is to say "I should get back," and then she realizes: For what reason am I rushing back? I have no deadline, the work will still be there, I can be solitary later, this is an experience that I should embrace, and she does. It was in these moments that the book had weight.

The other thing that I enjoyed was learning more about the unusual vocation of locksmith, especially as expressed in a city as old as Paris, where the locks can vary from ancient to modern, and the duties of the locksmith include repairing and refreshing the old locks, as well as installing new ones. It gave a glimpse into buildings with architectural details beautifully described by the author, and that loving attention to detail was also a big feature for me.

The story itself was eclipsed by these other elements. Genevieve is a fairly typical person whose emotions have been locked up (yes, there is a lot of symbolism of this kind, some of it overwhelmingly obvious or even trite) by various childhood and adult events or traumas, who needs to work them out and open herself up to life (wince with the lock-and-key metaphors again!). Likewise, there is a mystery she desires to solve about her mother's past, which no one will openly reveal to her, so she must go digging through the detritus of her mother's past amongst the things left by her Uncle Dave (the deceased locksmith from whom she is taking over the business) and Aunt Pasquale (who suffers from Alzheimer's and is therefore an unreliable witness). The "mystery" unfortunately becomes all too clear to the reader long before Genevieve herself suspects, which I found a bit unbelievable. And finally, as I have objected to in other reviews, this author had a bit of that compulsion to wrap things up tidily at the end that I sometimes find grating. This wasn't as bad as some, but there were things that could have been let lie while closure was still provided.

Over all, this book amply satisfied my Paris fixation, and was a pleasant enough story along with it that it proved to be an enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Ellen.
1,074 reviews7 followers
March 14, 2017
I gave this book 3 stars (which is low for me...I usually don't finish books that I wouldn't call a 4 or 5) for two simple reasons.

1. It perpetuates the simplistic American view of Paris and France in general. Visits to the quaint local baker for baguettes in the morning (although knowing what French packaged bread is like, you're stupid to not buy it fresh). Fashionable women on every corner. Endless bureaucracy (ok that part is true). Paris is like New York; a huge metropolitan city with a diverse population. Yet it seems to me that Americans especially tend to picture NYC as constantly changing and yet Paris stays the same as it was back in the early 1900s. While Parisian architecture has thankfully remained moderately unchanged (and by that I mean they haven't bulldozed all the old buildings down to make way for high-rise luxury apartments), the character of the city isn't as simplistic as this book makes it out to be.

2. The "French speak" that is used in this book frustrated me to no end. The French speakers were able to correctly communicate complicated and long-winded thoughts, but when it came to something easy to say, the author wrote things in broken English or simply substituted a French cliché like "très bien" or "c'est magnifique".

So I really thought hard about this....maybe the characters would speak in English+cliché phrase because they knew that almost all english speakers know the meanings of those phrases, so they were one less thing they had to say in English. OR maybe, since they are the few things that almost every reader of this book would know they were put in for that realistic slice of Parisian life. Either way, the inconsistency bothered me. I dabble in French and I can tell you that I have a much easier time saying "très bien" and talking about simple things when I need to than explaining war or dreams or interpreting cemetery sculptures like characters in this book did.

I considered giving it 4 stars just for the inclusion of a Casino store, but decided not to because the character was clearly embarrassed to have to shop in such a place, which once again plays to the stereotype that bothered me the entire way through. Quel dommage.
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