Paris, Moi and the Gang is part faux memoir, part travel guide, and part romance novel and is absolutely entertaining. Frances Gendlin is a veteran travel author; she writes with a friendly, conversational style that will quickly have you feeling like you and she are old friends.
The story is told from protagonist Frances' point-of-view as she researches and writes her latest Paris guide. Paris, Moi and the Gang follows an eclectic group of friends affectionately known as the Gang. This group of American Expatriates truly cares about and supports each other through the successes and failures of daily life in "the city of light." The gang's number grows and shrinks as members travel abroad or return from stints in the US. There's Caroline, the historian, who is researching the history of famous Americans who lived in Paris for her own book; and Sandra, the divorced pianist, and a connoisseur of everything Parisienne from the shopping to the men. Men are not left out of this club and we meet the recent widower, wine aficionado and master of high finance, Richard. Paul and Klaus are the self-professed Oldest Queens in Paris. "The boys" have an endearing uncles-niece type relationship with Frances and are never far when needed for advice on men, failed relationships, and the best spots to lunch. The chain-smoking Alice and her husband, the crusty Findlay, who have called Paris home for over 60 years, round out the circle.
Life in Paris appears simple enough; write a little, greet friends with a warm kiss, sit down for great food, wine and conversation at a wonderful locale. However, as Frances often remarks, "everything in Paris is an event." Gendlin shows how seemingly simple tasks like sorting out a cell phone glitch or having new house keys cut become a prolonged adventure sure to test even the most reserved temper, as customer service is non-existent. This is where the guide portion of the book shines as Gendlin gives helpful hints for dealing with cashiers, repairmen, and shop owners in procedures differing from that in the States. Throughout the book are sidebars containing a wealth of useful hints, history, and advice. From the best cheese, bread, and wine, to a unique recipe for scrambled eggs with truffles, to a full restaurant guide and a helpful look at accents.
Frances has an appreciation for living in Paris and a romance, so to speak, with the city, not that she doesn't see her fair share of attention from men. She picks her male "projects" and then goes with the flow as events unfold as they may, much like she does everyday.
From this book, I take away a belief that visiting Paris for a few weeks of vacation is like taking a single sip of a fine wine; you get a nice taste but not the full experience. Whether Paris, Moi and the Gang is fiction or memoir, it is an exceptional book with characters and scenery so well written and described that you are captivated from the first chapter and your interest is held until the final pages. Anyone contemplating a move to life in Paris must read this book. Think of it as a test-drive! This book is easy to enjoy; if you add it to your summer reading list, it won't disappoint.
Highly Recommend by William Potter for Reader's Choice Book Reviews