News for the week of March 25

AFGR chapter news

Our next book club meeting is May 15 at 5:30pm at Schuler Books on 28th Street in Grand Rapids and the selection is The Mistress Of Paris: The 19th-Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret by Catherine Hewitt, the story of  19th century Parisian courtesan Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne. For more information contact Marijke Wiersema.

According to The New York Times Book Review, “A gorgeous, smart, ambitious, hard-working, steely autodidact and businesswoman whose product was herself, Valtesse would be totally at home in our self-branding society.” 

Valtesse was fictionalized by Émile Zola in his novel Nana and painted by Édouard Manet:

Metropolitan Museum of New York

Metropolitan Museum of New York

How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 13th arrondissement.


1. How do books at the François Mitterand Library circulate from one tower to another?

A. On a conveyor belt.
B. Propelled by compressed air in a network of PVC tubes.
C. Transported in carriers that glide on rails affixed to the ceiling.

2. In what year was the Biévre river totally covered?

A. 1912.
B. 1937.
C. 1954.

3. What does the name Tolbiac evoke?

A. A victory.
B. A pigment prized by dyers.
C. An ancient convent.

4. What film recounts the true story of a spectacular escape attempt from La Santé Prison?

A. La Grande Évasion (The Great Escape).
B. La Trou (The Hole).
C. La Belle (The Deciding Game).

5. What is peculiar about the rue du Disque?

A. It’s an underground road.
B. It’s circular.
C. It houses the Museum of the Microgroove at number 3.

Answers can be found at the end of the newsletter.

Travel in France: Marseille from the air

Answers: 1. C, carriers fixed to the ceiling; 2. A, 1912; 3. A, a victory of the Franks over the Alamans in 496; 4. B, Le Trou; 5. A, entrance to the subterranean road is at 70 avenue d’Ivry.

Readying for Rouen

by Ellen VanderMey

My husband and I are preparing for a trip abroad and our first stop is Rouen, in Normandy, France. 

Aside from the questions of which footwear and clothing to pack, a question of primary importance is which books to pack (no, I’m not a Kindle user). Michelin's Green and Red Guides always go with us. And of course, something on Rouen's history. Reading about Jeanne d'Arc would be apropos because she was martyred in Rouen's Place de Vieux Marché. And I would certainly profit from re-reading Madame Bovary and A Sentimental Education by Rouen’s native son Gustave Flaubert.  

I realize I want to add the weight of the present to the weight of history, so I chose The Elegance of the Hedgehog and one of John Banville's latest "Mrs. Osmond" novels for reading before going to sleep. Neither of them are set in Rouen, but both are set in Europe.  

Don't let me mislead you, though; I spend much more time figuring out which clothing to pack.

Stay tuned!