The Emperor of Paris: A book to love


In a recent post I wrote about being a “promiscuous reader”. Meaning I read many books at once. But there are some books that demand my complete attention. I read them slowly, and savour each word. And even after reading, I hold them close.

The Emperor of Paris by Canadian author C.S. Richardson is one of those books.


The Emperor of Paris tells the story of lives intersecting and connecting through war, illness, injury and poverty. All of life’s injustices, big and small. (You can read a wonderful summary, and review, at Quill and Quire.)

Richardson’s writing is beautiful. Every word seems lovingly chosen. Even the most complex human emotion is expressed with heart-breaking simplicity and clarity.

This passage about motherhood and the worry that can break your heart (quite literally), resonated deeply with me: “As Octavio grew, his mother began to shrink.”


How did Richardson put into words what so many mothers feel but can’t express?

Another reason I loved this book: It is an hopeful tale. Reminding us of the simple pleasures (a well-baked baguette, a beautiful book) and the people we meet that make our lives worth living  — or at least more liveable. Sometimes it is the kindness of strangers. Sometimes it leads to love.

This is a love story (or perhaps more aptly described as a “story about love”, according to the Globe and Mail), but not in any traditional sense. Two lonely people brought together by a book.

“She–was a reader.

He had a library.”

How romantic is that?



  1. Very very nice. I am inspired to learn more about it and look forward to returning to reading books longer than 32 pages! (picture books of mine and my daughter’s) Also, this post inspires me to write my next post about something almost completely unrelated to this subject. I am reminded of a children’s book and the power of listening–The Emperor’s New Clothes!

  2. Such a lovely, inspiring introduction to a book I hadn’t heard about before – but which I now feel so drawn to… Sounds like a blend of perfect ingredients. A definite must-read! I will search it out…

    “…even after reading, I hold them close.” – I know exactly what you mean…

    Thank you for this lovely first meeting with the ‘Emperor of Paris.’


    • Yes, it’s a real treat. I don’t often recommend books so highly, but if you like Paris, bakeries, art galleries, books and interesting characters, you will love this. In some places, I found it hard to follow (I have a very short attention span!), as it involves so many characters intersecting across time and place, but I found that it was the type of book you just let wash over you…and not worry about plot too much you will be rewarded in the end!

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