J’adore ce livre! And if you adore Paris, you will as well.
Author and illustrator David Coggins and his family have been spending their winter holidays in Paris for more than 30 years. During those visits, Coggins not only jots down his thoughts on their wanderings in his beloved city and observations of his family, friends, meals, etc., but also uses his considerable talents as an artist to create evocative watercolor sketches that invite the reader along on the family’s journey.
“Photographs (and I take plenty of them) have never been enough for me when I travel,” Coggins writes. “Notebooks full of drawings in watercolors and ink pile up at home and studio….I hoped with brush and color to capture…a bit of the lightness and wit that one finds everywhere in the city.”
The book spans the years between 1997 and 2010 (not every year in that period is included). The entries are the literary equivalent of Coggins’ sketches…not a cohesive narrative, but more stream-of-consciousness “souvenirs” (actually, the French word for “remember”) of that year’s visit, more akin to reading a diary.
In his afterword, Coggins writes that he “laid down the brush and fountain pen” in 2010, in part because his children, David and Sarah, now grown and well-launched into their own lives, had less time to spend with Coggins and his wife Wendy on their annual jaunts. But also, he adds, because he felt that he had said everything there was to say.
“The time had come to simply enjoy, not describe,” he writes. “…Now after a day and night of sampling the city’s pleasures, I reach for pillow, not notebook.” (I know that feeling myself!)
As an almost annual visitor to Paris myself, “Paris in Winter” gave me the opportunity to relive my own experiences, share a fellow Francophile’s adventures, introduce me to new sights that I will add to my list on my next visit, and savor the beauty and magic that is Paris, not only for Coggins and for myself, but for so many others as well.
As he ends his book, “Coggins leaves readers with this message: “in the end this is not only a book about Paris but about embracing life. Paris is a city full of life and beauty, which, if you give it a chance, will allow you to embrace it. Better yet, it might embrace you back.”