I’ve been following Adam Roberts and his Invisible Paris blog for some years now and have never been disappointed. His research is exhaustive, his style engaging with stories that always broaden, deepen and enlighten my grasp of that most incredible bit of geography we call Paris, France.
And twice I’ve taken him up on his challenge to see if he could shed light onto a mystery (a sculpture in a sidewalk near Boulevard Saint-Germain and a large sculpture in Père-Lachaise Cemetery that disappeared years ago) and sure enough he did!
So, when I first heard that he was planning on publishing a collection of his insights into the city I was thrilled.
After several months I received my copy and can say straightaway that, like his blog, the book does not disappoint either. His writing is breezy but by no means slight, his narrative is thorough and each chapter is pleasure to read.
The book is broken into two sections, the longer of the the two is devoted to a history of Paris and is spot on. But for me it’s the second portion that focuses on “The City today” that reminds me so much of why I have always enjoyed the Invisible Paris blog. I especially liked his essays on the “The City of Immigration, “The New Belly of Paris,” “Paris by Night” and “Passages through Time” (the latter makes me want to revisit them again with his book in hand now). These are glimpses into a Paris that fascinate and enlighten at the same time, glimpses that you probably won’t find in any other “guide” to the city.
Interspersed throughout are one-page sidebars of curiosities that would only come from the pen of the Invisible Paris author, such as “The City that Lost its Head” (about the suburb of Saint Denis) and “The Writing on the Wall” (1971 graffiti paying homage to the Commune of 1871).
While this is by no means your typical guidebook (no hours or admittance fee information is provided) he does have a fine list at the back of the book of some of the more important stops for any traveler as well as a few suggestions for lodging, bars, cafes, shops, entertainment and restaurants.
I have to say that it is also a fine armchair guide for anyone who dreams of going to Paris for the first time or for the old hand who longs to return.
Oh, and the book fits nicely into a jacket pocket so having it handy is a snap.
If you'd like to learn more visit your local bookstore or go to Amazon.com (nope I don't get a penny for the link thank you very much).