I freely chose to review an ARC paperback copy of this book provided by the publishers. This in no way affected its content.
There’s something exciting and reassuring about guide books. Exciting, because we feel submerged in a place we don’t know (or we don’t know well) and we vibrate with the adventures its pages offer us, and that happens even when we’re just checking to get some ideas rather than committing to a visit or a definite plan. And reassuring, because having information about a place that might be unknown (and sometimes pretty different to our everyday experience) and holding onto facts, advice, and suggestions, we feel less alone and more in control.
There are many guidebooks, and as many different approaches and styles as readers and travellers. Some people have their favourites and stick to them (we all know that some guides are parts of series and come with a seal of approval from trusted organisations and/or publishers), others shop and change, and there are people who might have a true collection of guides for locations they love, and are always in the lookout for a new approach, or one that covers in more detail some aspect of a place that they are particularly interested in. If you love travelling and books, for instance, there are literary guides that will offer you information about different authors, where they lived and what they did in a particular place (it would be difficult to visit Dublin and not think of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde, visit Bath and not see in your mind’s eye the characters of Jane Austen’s novels, or walk around Barcelona and not keep coming across places mentioned in The Shadow of the Wind). I love reading and books, so I’ve always paid particular attention when visiting places to information about writers and authors, but I’m also enamoured with art (I am no aficionado, as I don’t know much, but I’m in awe of artists and love to learn about them and their works of art), so I could not resist when I saw this book.
I’ve visited Paris quite a few times (I’m lucky that one of my best friends lives in Paris, and I can visit one of my goddaughters when I go there), and I do love it. The idea of an art lover’s guide to Paris, one of the cities considered the cradle of art, fundamental to many art movements and to the career of so many world famous artists, was just perfect. And the book is a delight.
Considering this is a small-sized book, it is packed with information, and fairly up-to-date. (It does talk about Notre-Dame before the terrible fire, but the rest of the information is timely and there are reminders to check all the information for updates throughout the book). After a foreword by the author and a brief introduction talking about art history, the book (which includes an arrondissements map to allow people to get their bearings as to the location of the places), the book is divided into chapters including: the museums, foundations and institutions (organised by location), the galleries, it has a chapter on photography (including some photography tips), architecture, art in public places, then come two chapters talking about two neighbourhoods of Paris that are more “arty”, Montmartre (this one is divided into several parts and can be followed as a walking guide), and one on Belleville (a delight for those interested in modern art and new, up and coming artists),one on street art (I loved this one), a chapter containing advice on how to attend and art auction, one on arty cafés, restaurants and hotels, a chapter inviting people to explore greater Paris (that I found particularly inspiring, as it includes places easily accessible from Paris, just about an hour’s journey from the centre of Paris), a chapter called “art close and personal” with suggestions on where to go to meet artist and to learn more about art (and even practise your own!), arty day trips (these are longer visits, and include a lengthier segment on Giverny), another chapter offering tips, this one on buying art, by art experts, and an art diary, highlighting the different art fairs and events that art lovers might want to attend. The book also includes an index and a bibliography, although many of the entries contain relevant information and links that can be further explored.
The book is full of wonderful colour photographs, which make it a delight to leaf through, even if you’re not planning a trip straight away, and it contains nuggets of invaluable information about places and people, without becoming overwhelming or excessive. It is light-hearted, conversational in style (you feel as if you were strolling with the author at times), the language used is easy to read (and family-friendly), and it also includes references to other arts (for example, it highlights the real-life settings of movies).
This book will make a great present for anybody thinking about visiting Paris, art lovers in general, and anybody who likes specialised guide-books that remain accessible and user-friendly. Many of the tips and suggestions are useful in any setting and for any journey, and, personally, it will become a trusted companion in my future visits to Paris.