Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review: The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by John Baxter

Reviewed by Connie

Published: 2011

It's about: John Baxter, expatriate Aussie who lives in and loves Paris, takes the reader on a walking tour of Paris, including personal experiences, historical and literary sites, and amusing anecdotes. This book is a passionate man's love letter to Paris.

I thought: Written for the lover of Paris, this book takes a meandering pace through this legendary city's many rich layers, from its history of writers and artists (like Fitzgerald and Picasso), to its seedy underbelly of opium smokers, to its many involvements in revolutions and wars.

The book's pace feels very much like taking a stroll through Paris, as there is very little story to string the various anecdotes and explanations together. In this way, it can be both a peaceful, comforting read and a lengthy, boring one, as inevitably the reader will find some aspects of Paris more interesting than others.

Though I wish Baxter had found a more effective way to connect the various "walks" of Paris to give the book a bit more structure and continuity, the book is generally enjoyable and certainly not lacking in information or passion. I rather wish it had come out before my own trip to Paris a couple of years ago.

Other minor things that bugged me were an occasional, slight know-it-all tone and also at times a rather negative attitude toward other cities I love, like New York and London.

One last plus point -- and the reason I will be hanging onto the book -- is the appendix at the end of the book, which gives lots of tips for tourists and how best to experience the City of Love from an insider's perspective.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf

Reading Recommendations: If Paris, writers, and artists don't interest you, don't bother. But if you, like me, have a romantic interest in all things Europe, this is a should-read.

Warnings: None

Favorite excerpts:
"I felt elated. As if, like ultraviolet light, it could not penetrate glass, the essence of Paris is lost if seen through the double glazing of a hotel room or from the top of a tour bus. You must be on foot, with chilled hands thrust into your pockets, scarf wrapped round your throat, and thoughts of a hot cafe creme in your imagination. It made the difference between simply being present and being there."

What I'm reading next: The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.