Book Review: “It’s Not Love, It’s Paris” by Patricia Engel

While looking for case studies for my thesis, I came across this novel. One particular quote from this story caught my attention:

I was already an artist by blood; all immigrants are artists because they create a life, a future, from nothing but a dream. The immigrant’s life is art in its purest form.

While I cannot say this novel is entirely about immigrants as artists, the quote was enough to spark my interest given that I am a three-time immigrant and I had just spent a year researching art and migration for my master’s program. I started the novel hopeful for more deep quotes like this one, words that leave me in deep thought for hours.

I must admit that my search for deep words like this ended without much material. Many quotes seemed very cliché and superficial. Despite this setback, I must say that It’s Not Love, It’s Paris left me with other wanering thoughts. I ended the novel thinking about MY trip of self-discovery around Europe, and what this trip meant.

It’s Not Love, It’s Paris is the story of Lita, a Colombian-American young woman who goes on a year-long stay to Paris to study French. Lita’s  family life is the heroic American dream…her parents moved to the States from Colombia and by working hard, they created an empire with which they continue to help migrants. Lita was born in the States with economic wealth and a clear picture of her roots. Like many second-generation migrants, Lita lives searching for balance between her Colombian past and her American present. It seems it is this “balance” that Lita is escaping on her trip to Paris.

In Paris, Lita lives with several other girls in a type of boarding home mixed with European freedom. Although the girls live under the roof of a well-to-do woman, the house is very much like any college dorm with parties, men and gossip. As Lita is immersed in this new lifestyle, she begins to figure out who she is, what her family obligations are and what is it that she wants from her life.

No self-discovery story would be complete without a romantic encounter. In Paris, Lita meets Cato, a lonely, sickly and senstitive young man whose father is a very famous and conservative politician against all types of migrants in Paris. Their love is ill-fated since the beginning, but despite the odds, Lita and Cato decide to give their love a chance.

I will not spoil the ending of this novel, but I do recommend it despite its cliché-story and dialogue. The story is relatable, the protagonist earns the reader’s sympathy, and, personally, the novel is immersed in the romantic image we all have of Paris (this is the one cliché I cannot resist). After reading the story and pondering about MY Euro-self discovery trip, I return to my artistic life of creating a life from nothing in Europe.

Personal photograph of Paris and the Eiffel Tower

Personal photograph of Paris and the Eiffel Tower

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Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Photography by Stewart Black found in Flickr.com

Photography by Stewart Black found in Flickr.com

I have spent a good part of the summer catching up on my reading wish list since the master’s I just finished gave me little time for “recreational reading.” Yesterday, while I was searching for a novel, I came across Paula Hawkins The Girl on the Train. I must admit that I was a bit skeptical when I first found it on Amazon’s best seller list. The summary wasn’t captivating enough to pull me into it. It was rather a review I read that made me give it a chance. One reader compared it to Gone Girl, and I was intrigued to find out why.

At the beginning, the story is told through the eyes of Rachel. Rachel is a recently divorced woman who is dealing with her world crumbling down mixed in with alcoholism, unemployment and loneliness. Every morning she makes a useless commute to London, and on her way she is captivated by two houses in one of the towns the train stops in. Every morning Rachel sees a couple who lives two doors down from where she used to live before her world collapsed. Every morning she observes this couple and creates a story in her head of how their lives must be, their names and even their jobs. However, on one of those days that Rachel observes them, she sees the woman with another man. The day after, this woman goes missing. Rachel holds on to this crucial piece of information in order to help find this mysterious woman that has gone missing as well as to save her husband from being blamed for her disappearance.

As the story progresses the reader hears more from two other characters, Megan and Anna. We see what Megan was going through before she was missing, as well as Anna’s life as Rachel meddles into her life and that of her husband Tom, Rachel’s ex husband. The story is as mixed as it sounds: everyone’s lives are connected in the way you least expect. People’s assumptions of what is happening have a great effect on the story plot and it isn’t until the very end that we can somewhat understand it all.

The story line of The Girl on the Train is very interesting and relatable. Although Rachel’s destructive behaviour creates a bit of frustration because it is this behaviour that continues to get her in trouble, her sadness and loneliness are very much relatable. Who hasn’t felt at the bottom of the world after a terrible break up? Hawkins manages to keep us on our toes throughout the entire novel as we try to figure out what happened to Megan and who is responsible.

A deeper issue that makes The Girl on the Train not only a great novel but one of extreme relevance is its closeness to women’s issues such as domestic abuse, depression and having children. While these issues are not solely female issues, Hawkins presents them in the lives of three very different women. The pressures of becoming a mother affect Rachel, Megan and Anna in very different ways as well. In these characters, we can appreciate different ways of dealing, of surviving and of making peace.

In short, I am very glad I found The Girl on the Train yesterday. I read that Dreamworks purchased the rights for this movie. While I am a firm book-nerd that believes the book is ALWAYS better than the movie, I am curious to see the adaptation of this novel.

What are your thoughts on The Girl on the Train?