All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Paris Syndrome by Lisa Walker

on May 14, 2018

Paris Syndrome 
Lisa Walker
Harper Collins AUS
2018, 310p
Copy courtesy of the author

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Can romance only be found in Paris, the city of love?

Happiness (Happy) Glass has been a loner since moving to Brisbane and yet still dreams about living in Paris with her best friend Rosie after they finish Year Twelve. But Rosie hasn’t been terribly reliable lately.

When Happy wins a French essay competition, her social life starts looking up. She meets the eccentric Professor Tanaka and her girl-gardener Alex who recruit Happy in their fight against Paris Syndrome – an ailment that afflicts some visitors to Paris. Their quest for a cure gives Happy an excellent excuse to pursue a good-looking French tourism intern also called Alex. To save confusion she names the boy Alex One and the girl Alex Two.

As Happy pursues her love of all things French, Alex Two introduces Happy to her xylophone-playing chickens whose languishing Facebook page Happy sponsors.

But then sex messes things up when, confusingly, Happy ends up kissing both of the Alex’s. Soon neither of them is speaking to her and she has gone from two Alex’s to none …

I had honestly never heard of Paris Syndrome until I read this book. And when I first started it, I didn’t actually know it was a real thing until I finished the book and did a little bit of research online. But apparently it’s a thing – a feeling of let down or shock that Paris in reality is not the romanticised city of their thoughts. It’s classed as a mental disorder.

Happiness (aka Happy) Glass dreams about going to Paris. She and her best friend Rosie have always planned to go. Happy recently moved from Sydney to Brisbane with her mother and she’s feeling a bit lonely and isolated over the summer holidays before school starts. It’s a bit hard to immerse yourself in all things Paris in Brisbane, but Happy gives it her best shot, winning a French essay competition, dressing in her Amelie outfits and getting a job at a cinema playing French films. Winning the essay introduces the two Alexes into Happy’s life and also a Japanese professor who identifies Happy as having a significant risk of Paris Syndrome.

I have to admit, the Paris thing passes me by. I’m not particularly enamoured by it, I don’t seek it out, even in books. But that’s mostly because unlike most people, I don’t really have a strong desire to travel (which is good, because I’m unlikely to ever really get the chance to do extensive overseas travel). There are no real cities I feel a connection with, no places that I long to visit. But I do know that Paris has that certain something for many people and it’s certainly up there as a top destination. And I know people that have been to France and Paris in particular and had mixed reviews of the city. Paris is certainly a very romanticised location, in literature and film. It seems that everyone there is effortlessly cool, wearing haute couture to go pick up their croissants and macarons, wandering along with the Eiffel Tower in the background at night. But nothing can be like that all of the time, so I can understand that the reality might be quite different. And that it might be a let down to people who have really strong feelings about the Paris lifestyle.

This is a really sweet coming of age novel but with several quite serious undertones. Happy is a strong and likeable character, but she does seem at a bit of a loss, struggling up in Brisbane, removed from her best friend Rosie. There are also some family issues that weigh upon her as well. It’s quite fun watching her interacting with the two Alexes, both the male French one who finds her intriguing and also the female gardener Alex who raises chickens and has a far more interesting backstory then was apparent at their first meeting. Also her relationship with her boss Kevin and its evolution over the course of the book is a highlight, it is really enjoyable. The deeper I got into the story the more I realised just how much Happy was going through. Seventeen is such a strange age – not quite an adult but in that place where you’re starting to make decisions about your future, about what you want to do as you move into adulthood. Happy has had several very big things happen to her in quite a short amount of time and it takes a while for all of these things to be revealed which makes the impact felt all the more. Lisa Walker examines not only that cusp of adulthood, but how someone at that stage processes grief and deals with devastating events as well as issues of sexuality. Happy ends up kissing both Alexes and then has to decide what she really wants and how to go about getting it.

I really enjoyed this book – I found the Paris Syndrome stuff quite interesting but I enjoyed the friendships and relationships so much. Happy is just such a lovely character that you want the best for her, that she sort through these things in her head and find the things that make her truly ‘happy’. This has a lot to offer – for lovers of Paris and even those that aren’t beholden to the City of Light. The strength of the character relationships and interactions and the deft way in which Lisa Walker balances the different issues make this the sort of read that will leave a mark.


Book #87 of 2018



One response to “Review: Paris Syndrome by Lisa Walker

  1. A friend of mine might have suffered a bit of Paris syndrome after his trip. He kept harping on about the smell of dog pee and the dog faeces everywhere. Parisians do love their dogs! It took a bit of the romantic shine away for him though! I’ve been once, when I was 10. I remember very little about it. London had more impact on my memory.

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