Ransacking the City of Love: a review of Patti Miller’s ‘Ransacking Paris’
In the romantic city of love, Paris, author Patti Miller lost herself in the ways of the French and told us about it in her new book ‘Ransacking Paris’.
Her latest book is based on the time Patti spent living in Montmartre, Paris with her husband Anthony and her favourite french writers.
The book jumps between Patti’s reality and her fantasy world where she sits down in a Parisian café and speaks with some of France’s best known writers. She indulges us with conversations with the likes of Montaigne, Rousseasu, de Beauvoir and Stendhal, plus many more, while she discusses their work and asks them questions about themselves.
In one of his works, Montaigne describes ransacking ‘one book, and now another’, and that’s exactly what Miller set out to do as she moves halfway across the world to live in a foreign city. She leaves her grown boys behind and her beloved Blue Mountains to experience the city she has dreamed of since a little girl.
With her Parisian writer friends, Patti learns to let herself go as she meets new friends and catches up with old ones. She discovers the nooks and crannies of historic Paris while taking on experiences that she may not have done back home.
Approaching this book, I expected it to be a narrative of Millers year in Paris. I was surprised to find that as a nonfiction book, it was full of layers and things to learn.
Not only does Patti give us a lovely and fulfilling idea of what her life is like, she also gives us context for a lot of her decision to move overseas. We jump back and forth between the present and her past as a little girl on the farm, and in between she battles her own demons as a writer and the perils of writing a fiction novel.
She also gives little snippets of her French writers and their illustrious pasts and their famous writings. The French are characters, and Miller certainly does them justice.
The book gets very personal, with Patti not holding back on anything to do with her move, her relationships and how she feels leaving her family, (including her two sons), behind in Australia. It is interesting to have not just a recount of the time in Paris, but all Miller’s feelings. It transports the reader to her wrap around balcony overlooking her quarter with her. You see what she sees and you sympathize with her struggles as a foreigner.
There are no shortages of fantastic quotes from the novel, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that there is considering who she writes about. Being well read is a quality of Miller that lends itself magnificently to this book The quick quotes she picks to help evoke the emotions of what she is feeling really punctuate the story and emphasize her point. My favourite quote came from the beginning of the chapter called May. “Grace and beauty occupy and fulfil me as much or more than weight or profundity” (quote of Michel de Montaigne).
The story lends itself to a peaceful read and isn’t too heavy on the subjects. It outlines expectations of travelling and living abroad and the excitement that comes along with it. It’s an inspiration to those who are thinking of making the leap overseas and an encouragement to at least think about what the experience could do for you.
This book is to be enjoyed with a glass of wine, on an autumn afternoon with a blanket and a smile. The soft story leaves the reader envious of Miller but excited for what comes next. It never becomes dull and is perfect for a good hearty read.
‘Ransacking Paris’ is available to purchase from the 25th of March.