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?