If you love food + Paris + historical fiction, then you must read A Bakery in Paris, the newest novel from Aimie Runyan! Walk the streets of 1870s Montmartre with the indomitable Lisette, or take culinary school classes with the shy but determined Micheline. Either route you choose leads you back to the bakery, the heart of this novel, and, let's face it, most great adventures in Paris.
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- dual POV/dual timeline historical fiction
- abundant with French history and culture
- full of recipes and baking references
- Paris as a main character
- coming-of-age themes
- riches-to-rags storyline
- intergenerational story
Published August 1, 2023
Thanks to William Morrow Books for the advanced access e-galley.
1870: The Prussians are at the city gates, intent to starve Paris into submission. Lisette Vigneau--headstrong, willful, and often ignored by her wealthy parents--awaits the outcome of the war from her parents' grand home in the Place Royale in the very heart of the city. When an excursion throws her into the path of a revolutionary National Guardsman, Theodore Fournier, her destiny is forever changed. She gives up her life of luxury to join in the fight for a Paris of the People. She opens a small bakery with the hopes of being a vital boon to the impoverished neighborhood in its hour of need. When the city falls into famine, and then rebellion, her resolve to give up the comforts of her past life is sorely tested.
1946: Nineteen-year-old Micheline Chartier is coping with the loss of her father and the disappearance of her mother during the war. In their absence, she is charged with the raising of her two younger sisters. At the hand of a well-meaning neighbor, Micheline finds herself enrolled in a prestigious baking academy with her entire life mapped out for her. Feeling trapped and desperately unequal to the task of raising two young girls, she becomes obsessed with finding her mother. Her classmate at the academy, Laurent Tanet, may be the only one capable of helping Micheline move on from the past and begin creating a future for herself.
When I tell you I absolutely adored this book I mean it. It was the wholesome slice of goodness that I needed to get through my week. Who doesn't enjoy good food? A Bakery in Paris combined good food with historical fiction, two of my favorite things. Throw in an intergenerational link between two strong female main characters, and I'm hooked!
Lisette and Micheline were relatable characters experiencing the hardship of war, loss, and first love. I fell hard for these two women early in the novel and was utterly entranced by both storylines. This page-turner kept me engaged, reading ferociously so that I could find out what was to come of these headstrong, resilient MCs. The amount of hardship they faced was heartwrenching, and, as a reader, I felt the weight of sorrow carried by each of the main characters.
But baking and the bakery were really the glue that held the whole story together (as one might surmise from the title). I really appreciated how the bakery anchored both women and gave them purpose during uncertain times. Interspersed throughout the book were recipes for traditional French baked goods and desserts that were featured in the story. The baking/bakery elements added whimsy to the book that helped keep the tone hopeful even in the darkest moments, of which there were plenty.
I was especially intrigued by the riches-to-rags storyline of Lisette. Giving up a life of luxury for love and principles is honorable/admirable/fascinating/mind-boggling all at once. It had me wondering if would I do that?! Tbh, I’m not sure. Especially if it meant I might go hungry. 🤷🏻♀️
My only complaint is that it felt a little YA at times. The romance was all clean (which I prefer), but for some reason, the wholesomeness of the book coupled with the strong coming-of-age themes gave it a bit of a YA vibe.
This was an excellent book I think any historical fiction reader will likely enjoy, especially one who enjoys intergenerational stories. It is WWII adjacent, so it appeals to WWII fiction fans, as well. I loved all the French history and the main character energy the author gave to my favorite city: Paris. I felt like I was walking the streets of Montmartre again!