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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