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The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs
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The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  2,166 ratings  ·  358 reviews
A delightful and beguiling look at life on a small Paris street.

Elaine Sciolino, the former Paris bureau chief of the New York Times, invites us on a tour of her favorite Parisian street. I can never be sad on the rue des Martyrs, Sciolino explains, as she celebrates the neighborhoods rich history and vibrant lives. While many cities suffer from the leveling effects of
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 2nd 2015 by W. W. Norton Company
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Janine Prince It is a poetic summary of the idea that one could live a rich and entire life just on this street. The street is presented as a microcosm of French…moreIt is a poetic summary of the idea that one could live a rich and entire life just on this street. The street is presented as a microcosm of French history, culture, religion and ethos captured in the changing demographics, businesses and behaviours there. It is written by a passionate newcomer wanting to express the delight of so many pleasures and treasures in one 'ordinary' place. Perhaps where you live is potentially the "only" street to you? (less)

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Diane S ☔
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
So did not want this book to end. Loved reading about this street which retains so many individual shop owners, many specializing in just one thing. The history of some of the buildings, meeting the shopkeepers, the history of the area and the delightful stores themselves. The books, famous writers, artists who once made this place their homes or mentioned them in their novels. The feel, the tone, the passion made me feel as if I was there. Definitely a place I would love to visit one day. ...more
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It will be impossible to ever understand all of Paris's secrets. This book unlocked the secrets of one of its streets: with unexpected details about its past and present residents and architecture. Overall colorful and funny. It's also a testament to the power of mindfulness: of paying attention, of unabashedly loving ones surroundings, and perhaps most important of all - of taking the time to get to know those around us. ...more
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having lived off the Rue de Martyrs in another life, I was excited to read this book, but the author was absolutely insufferable. Between her many passing brags about "her least favorite Hermès" and her bulldozing her way into everybody's personal lives, I wonder if her neighbors ever perfected a warning system for l'arivée de l'américaine. This woman is so obtuse that in one chapter she talks about giving directions to the chauffeur for her and Arianna Huffigton and follows it with ...more
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
It turns out that I don't like memoirs by extroverts. Who knew?

The best parts were the stories of the people and the history of the street.

The worst parts were where the author is like: "Let me tell you about how I wanted the Pope to visit the street and someone thought that was a good idea and I wrote this letter, but nothing ever happened with it, isn't that cool?"


"I talked to this person and they didn't want to talk to me so I annoyed them regularly until I broke them down and they were
Some people look at the rue des Martyrs and see a street. I see stories. p. 1

All that was needed for this wonderful book to catch my attention was the first sentence. I have been visiting Paris through books off and on for more than a year, but even more importantly, Sciolino was promising me stories. My hopes for this book rose accordingly. After finishing her book, I feel that Sciolino more than met her promise.

When I meet people, whether in books or in real life, I want to know their stories.
Paul Secor
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it
The Only Street in Paris was entertaining at times, but I sensed that the author's background clouded the book. She plays up the fact that she comes from a Sicilian immigrant background, but she obviously is upper upper middle class these days. I felt that her connection with the shop keepers on her street was mainly that of a good customer who spent money in their shops, and that there probably was a lot going on the Rue des Martyrs that she didn't experience.
Her description of a short shopping
Sara Coriell
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
Overall I was bored with it. I skipped some chapters completely. Her descriptions made made me feel like i was there, which I liked - however she seemed to drag on and on about the same thing, sometimes in a bragging way.
It did make me crave some good wine & cheese!
Apr 16, 2017 rated it liked it
"There is more civilization in an alley in Paris than in the whole of New York" - Eça de Queirós

This is one of my father's favourite quotes, although he often likes to substitute "civilization" for "history".

It is true that if you're going to write a book about just one street, of course it is going to be a Parisian street. There is enough history in that city that you can study it your whole life and still have things to learn. You can walk there every day and still discover amazing things.

Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
In comparison to other travelogues (especially about Paris), it might be a 3 star. But a 3 star travelogue is still 4 stars in comparison with any other genre. ;)
David Cerruti
After several starts, I just quit trying. The subject is fascinating, but the delivery put me off. It seemed like a blog for All About Me and My Wonderful Street.

The Rue Des Martyrs is a pleasant street for strolling. This week we bought some ravioli in Sogno di Pasta, a beautiful new shop. Google Maps Street View shows another shop in that location as recently as May, 2016. You can see the entire street in Street View, and save yourself some travel time.
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book, 2016
I didn't have high hopes for this. So much writing about Paris tends to be predictable and as substantial as a croissant. The books are palatable and enjoyable but not terribly nourishing. Sciolino's book is not this. It is heartier fare. But not obviously scholarly or pedantic. It is a perfectly balanced meal of levity and information and provocative suggestions. Wait, no. That's not what I meant. I meant that it invites the reader to think more deeply about the tensions between the obvious ...more
Jul 23, 2015 rated it liked it
This was very informative and I even took some notes, but overall her tone was a little too cute and juvenile for me to consider her more seriously. I am sure she is a very nice person but I craved a more polished presentation. The "Only Street in Paris" felt a little bizarre as a title, but the faux script writing was indicative of it's lightweight status. Very probably she had little input into the book's design however.
I was hoping for a much more polished book but maybe she was appealing to
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was about to order this book on my Kindle when Amazon kindly informed me I had bought it three years ago; I have no idea why I didn't finished it. It's marvelous, about the history and shop owners and friends and quirks of this one extraordinary street in Paris reaching up to Montmartre...all seen by a journalist who made it her home for many years. I love books like this, about people living in a small area of a city I love and going about their daily lives, shopping for wine or apples and ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An unusual travel book from the NYTimes Paris bureau cheif. A story of the storefronts, public spaces, and nightclubs on her street as told from her heartily American journalists eye. While the episodic narrative didnt have me racing to tye end, Ms Sciolinos brio in writing had me picking it up like it was a letter from a friend. Wheres Elianes book? I asked myself as I went to bed or read it at lunch. The mix of immigrants of French merchants might have made this a story of any world city ...more
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: about-france
In this marvelous book Elaine Sciolino has perfectly captured what I love about France. The history, the art, the food, the people and so much more all come to life on the pages here. She not only shares with us the life and history of her street (Rue des Martyrs) but also a bit of her own life and some of her history (her Sicilian background and catholic upbringing and her interfaith marriage). Sciolino is an amazingly talented writer and I am quite certain that ANYTHING she wrote about would ...more
I wasn't sure I could finish this book as I wasn't even 1/2-way through when Paris was attacked. Very glad I did. This book is a celebration of the people living in the village of Montmartre around the rue des Martyrs. It's a love letter to what makes them unique, strong and quirky. It was something of a catharsis to finish the book. Reading about such amazing people left me hopeful. Sciolino was able to capture the ineffable sense of being part of that neighborhood both as outsider and insider. ...more
Oct 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Though I thought this was an interesting account as relates to community and transitioning to life in a new country, I didn't like it as much as I had planned to. I hadn't expected it to lean so heavily toward memoir. The author seemed to take center stage more so than the street. Though to an extent that's to be expected since the book was written by an outsider, I'm afraid the title gave me expectations that weren't completely met.
Anna Swenson
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Mention the rue des Martyrs to any Parisian, and they smile. So when I heard there was an entire book about this street, I picked it up immediately. The book is well-researched and thorough about the street's history, residents, secret gardens, legends, and yes, its food! Detailed without being boring, the book is a must for any Francophile, history buff, or food-lover. Beautiful photos too.
Jun 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Yawn. A rather pretentious book by yet another overly romantic soul that embraces the fantasy that there is simply no place like Paris. The author tries too hard to cast life on the Rue des Martyrs as some remarkable discovery she has stumbled on, but I very much got the impression that much of it was conjured up by her elitist view of Paris.
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was skeptical that a whole book on just one street would be interesting, but it was amazing!
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I challenge anyone to read this book and not long to move immediately in Paris! Or, at least to find a place where communitarian values and good food; not to mention a preference for pleasure over relentless efficiency and "being useful" remains a priority. Indeed, I was thinking how something like this could be written in any place where traditional values had not been killed off. I, for one, couldn't stop recalling how much I missed my home in Japan, where neighbors were so intimately ...more
Caterina Pierre
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a quick and easy read, and I found it especially nice to read while in Paris, so that I could check out the sites that Sciolino mentions in the book. In one sense, it is about the gentrification of Paris: there is no doubt that old style shops and bars have been lost to big chains like Monoprix and Starbucks. However, unlike in the USA, artisan shops are protected by law and certain streets like the Rue des Martyrs are protected by the government from massive modernization. In another ...more
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, non-fiction
"Come with me down this street and meet the ghosts of our earliest years," Julien Green quoted by Ms. Sciolino. I finished this book at speed because I was off to Paris in May and wanted to visit the Rue des Martyrs. One recent form of Creative Non-fiction is a sort of homage to a very small place--one beach, one small village, one street in Paris. Of course, this book is the latter, one woman's affair with her neighborhood, its history and the people that inhabit it. Ms. Sciolino tells a good ...more
Stephanie Chambers
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-books
I could read a whole book on each and every street in Paris. I could read a book about each individual street in all of Europe. By focusing on one particular street, this book was able to give me a complete picture of what it would be like to live on this street. I loved learning the history behind the buildings and the people who've lived there. I loved how much the author loved her street. I think no matter how long you are there, once you fall in love with Paris, you will love it with that ...more
Anne Janzer
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: places
This is an enjoyable, virtual visit to a charming street in Paris. Its well-written and filled with interesting characters.
Aug 24, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommendation from Val (@veb789) - 8/24/2017
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked this up on a whim from the recommended shelf at my local library. Im so glad I did! Its an immensely readable slice of life collection of stories about a Parisian neighborhood as seen by an American living there. I love that this book taught me a little something while being an absolute joy of a read. Oh, and being about Paris, it also made me very hungry! ...more
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved, loved, loved this book. A social history of rue des Martyrs in Paris 9eme arrondissement. The chapters focus on different aspects and how the street has changed over the years, centuries. The chapter on the woman who runs a frame repair/gilding shop is fascinating and the store will become a casualty of modern times ... probably within our lifetime.
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love affair with Paris

I loved this book so much. I had to buy it.
I cried when I finished reading it because it ended.
Sally McComas
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very much enjoyed this book. It made me feel like I was wandering the street with the author. It was a nice slice of everyday Paris life.
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Elaine Sciolino is a writer and former Paris Bureau Chief for The New York Times, based in France since 2002. She contributes to The New York Times' Food, Culture, Styles and Sunday Review sections. In 2015 she served as the expert lecturer on the first New York Times-led tour to Iran, and will have led six Times Journeys to Iran by the end of 2016. She currently is an expert lecturer on New York ...more

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“An American writer who had come to visit France . . . asked quite naturally what it was that had kept me here so long. . . It was useless to answer him in words. I suggested instead that we take a stroll through the streets. —HENRY MILLER ON LIVING IN PARIS” 1 likes
“Consuming alcohol in public is allowed in France, which means drinkers overflow onto the sidewalk, especially on the Montmartre stretch. But it rarely gets out of control.” 0 likes
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