The Emperor of Paris by C.S. Richardson
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Format: Hardcover, 280 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pub Date: August 14, 2012
The Emperor of Paris: A Novel by C.S. Richardson is a delicately written story about the fated circumstances leading two unlikely people together: Octavio Notre-Dame, an illiterate Parisian baker and Isabeau Normande, a woman shamed by facial scars from a disfiguring accident as a child.
The book feels classically written with a formality that feels as genteel as Parisian culture and fable-like as the books collected by the passionate baker in the story, in particular the book, The Arabian Nights.
Much of the dialogue, too, is the heartwarming way in which father and son communicate through the sight of pictures and shared storytelling to compensate for their illiteracy.
They thread into part vocal testament to the brutality of war and poverty and the power of imagination and storytelling as a source of survival and joy. And perhaps a subliminal comment on the true meaning of literacy itself.
Octavio’s charm resides in his humility as a man, his genuine, innocent, yet grand storytelling, as well as his tender relationship with his father even after the effects of post-traumatic stress from war, and his thoughtful and quiet pursuit of the equally shy and isolated, Isabeau Normande.
Isabeau, herself, takes comfort and solace in the dark basements of the Louvre where she meticulously restores beauty to classical paintings as an answer to her personal passion for art itself and perhaps as a form of personal redemption in answer to her own facial disfigurement.
The book is an eloquent and delicately written novella about the art of storytelling filled with the sentimentality of Parisian community, passionate vocation, and the innocence of new, romantic love—especially for those who feel most unworthy of discovering it—yet, the ones who most likely deserved it the most.
Whether you’re a passionate artist or an intrigued voyeur of Parisian life, the kind tone of this novel will bring to light the importance of child-like play and imagination, fantasy, and fairytale in a hopeful optimism against the devastation of disappointment, personal trauma, and often times, the reality of life.
A special thank you to Doubleday Canada and Random House of Canada for providing me with a media copy of this book in exchange for an unpaid and honest review.
Have you ever been to Paris, France?
Have you ever visited the Louvre?
What fascinates you most about the Parisian culture?