Starred Review for A Passion for Paris on Kirkus Reviews


I can’t help sharing this rave, starred review in the notoriously "difficult" (discerning?) Kirkus Reviews:



Join Downie (Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of St. James, 2013, etc.) for a top-notch walking tour of Paris.

In search of what makes Paris romantic, the author takes us to the 19th century. Early on, he notes that Paris may be romantic just because writers, artists and musicians say it is. But romanticism is not just literary or artistic; it’s also political. Throughout the 1800s, there was a host of activists who mocked the status quo. Victor Hugo based his play Hernani, about adulterous lovers and their unfortunate end, on true life, and as Paris audiences often did, they rioted, opening the war between romanticism and classicists.

Throughout the book, the author shares his love of places that he has explored for 30 years. He recounts the lives and loves of Hugo, Dumas, Sand, Delacroix and so many others in the romantic shrines of the Marais, Luxembourg Gardens and the Arsenal Library. Literature of this age reflected the essence of romanticism, where chronology and logical plots were reactionary.

The French are complex, ambiguous and contradictory by nature, and they are proud of their weaknesses and faults. Understanding the romantics requires understanding Paris, and searching for the real Paris is part of the journey.

On that journey, Downie is the consummate guide. Reflecting on Foucault’s pendulum, the author writes, “the real Paris is of the mind, so it doesn’t exist and can’t age.” The author’s encyclopedic knowledge of the city and its artists grants him a mystical gift of access: doors left ajar and carriage gates left open foster his search for the city’s magical story.

Anyone who loves Paris will adore this joyful book. Readers visiting the city are advised to take it with them to discover countless new experiences.

Pub Date: April 28th, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04315-3

Page count: 320pp

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4th, 2015


Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2015

Indiebound: (use the store-finder function to order from your local bookseller). The following Indies are on our nationwide spring 2015 book tour. Click for the complete schedule.

Buy A Passion for Paris from Harvard Book Shop


Buy A Passion for Paris from Northshire Books


Buy A Passion for Paris from McNally-Jackson


Buy A Passion for Paris from Politics and Prose


Buy A Passion for Paris from New Dominion Books


Buy A Passion for Paris from The Regulator


Buy A Passion for Paris from Book Passage


Buy A Passion for Paris from Orinda Books


Books Events for A PASSION FOR PARIS


Sat, April 25, 7 pm, Northshire Books in Manchester Center, VT.

4869 Main St, Manchester Center, VT 05255 Phone:+1 802-362-2200

Tue, April 28, 7 pm, Harvard Book Store

1256 Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA, (617) 661-1515. Toll Free (800) 542-READ  

Tue, May 5, 7 pm, McNally Jackson Books

52 Prince Street, NY, 10012, 212 274 1160


Friday, May 8, 7 pm, Curious Iguana,

Downtown Frederick’s independent bookstore

12 North Market Street, Frederick, MD 21701, 301.695.2500

Sat, May 9, 6 pm, Politics & Prose

5015 Connecticut Ave. NW

Washington, D.C. 20008, 202-364-1919 •  800-722-0790

Tue, May 12, 5:30 pm, New Dominion bookstore

404 East Main Street , Charlottesville, VA


Thurs, May 14, time tbc, literary dinner at Piedmont Restaurant

401 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701

(919) 683-1213

Possible tie-in or separate event: The Regulator bookstore in Durham:


Friday, May 29, 7 pm, Lafayette Library and Learning Center

Distinguished Speaker Series

3491 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Lafayette, CA 94549 (925) 385-2280

Monday June 6, 11 am, Bay Area Book Festival,

Berkeley, details TBC


Sat June 6, 4 pm, Book Passage Marin

51 Tamal Vista Blvd. Corte Madera, CA 94925


June 9, time tbc, Powell's Books

2720 NW 29th Ave., Portland, OR 97210


June 12, time tbc, Elliott Bay Book Company

1521 Tenth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122

206-624-6600 or 1-800-962-5311 Toll Free

Other potential events tbc: Vancouver and Montreal


Early Praise for A PASSION FOR PARIS

"Paris has been cherished, admired, analyzed for centuries, yet in his wildly entertaining, operatic A Passion for Paris, David Downie seems to offer up a whole new place. Writing with an engaging informality, he delves into this most romantic of cities, then and now, focusing particularly on the Romantic Age and its people. . . . Whether the author is leading us into Flaubert's study or onto the terrace of today's Deux Magots, there's a rare excitement in the air—as if Puccini's Bohemians were united in song, somewhere off stage." —Penelope Rowlands, author of Paris Was Ours

"Victor Hugo, Adèle and Juliette, Saint-Beuve, Nadar, George Sand and a host of other great figures of French history come alive in David Downie’s compelling and often wickedly humorous investigation of romance and romanticism in the City of Light. Most travelers agree that Paris is by far the most romantic city in the world but thanks to Downie’s extensive research, passionate sleuthing and inspired imagination, they’ll now know why. This unusual and exquisitely told tale of French romanticism is a must-read for true Paris lovers." —Harriet Welty Rochefort, author of French Toast and Joie de Vivre


"David Downie's wholly original new book is for true Francophiles in general and serious admirers of Paris in particular — there is so much packed into these pages!   Even those with an encyclopedic knowledge of Paris will discover a new quartier (like the 9th arrondissement's Nouvelle Athènes neighborhood and its Musée de la Vie Romantique that Downie refers to as "the most only-in-Paris of the uniquely Parisian places I know") or a little-known fact (most of the townhouses on the quai Voltaire in the 7th arrondissement are still standing and still sought after, "a testament to both the sturdiness of 17th century construction and the apparent idiosyncratic Parisian reluctance to embrace radical urban change").  A Passion for Paris is a love letter of sorts but it's also a thoughtful, carefully considered précis on an enduring theme.  Downie's other books on France, and Italy, are rightly acclaimed; but this is the book Downie was clearly meant to write.  Bravo!"—Barrie Kerper, author of The Collector Traveler series


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