A touching love story by Nicholas Robinson
Quick disclaimer: I do know the author of this book in a social context. We’re part of the same writing group and I primarily purchased the book to support his writing career. That said I intend all of these reviews to be unbiased, genuine reflections of how much I enjoyed the book (or not).
The House of Paris Le Grand is a beautiful and touching love story with a deep message, one that poignantly portrays the devastating impact of depression on those who experience it, and the helplessness felt by those around them.
The story focuses on Sophie, a somewhat dowdy 40-something who has spent her entire life trying ‘keep calm and carry on’ despite the dark emptiness that has pervaded for a long, long time. The main thrust of the book is Sophie’s efforts to finally do something about the emptiness, prompted into action following a car accident.
She’s joined on her journey by a wonderfully diverse and eclectic cast of supporting characters including her mother, Beryl, and of course the titular Paris Le Grand. Paris is a big part of Sophie’s eventual transformation, and it’s clear to see why – his character is a powerful force, and so starkly contrasted to Sophie that it would be hard for her not to be affected by his non-nonsense attitude and kindness.
With Paris and Beryl’s help, Sophie embarks on a bucket-list challenge, in an effort to add some spice to her otherwise mundane life. And as you might expect, some very entertaining situations ensue.
One of the things I enjoyed about the book was how relatable Sophie was, and especially how low-key her personal bucket list was. Many of her items were things that most of us have done in the course of life, and the fact that she chose relatively simple tasks to tick off was affecting for two reasons. One, it really showed the depth of deprivation in her life; the fact she’d been so walled off as a result of her feelings of emptiness are highlighted beautifully in the things she wants to achieve. Two, they lead (mostly) to very relatable situations, that most readers will sympathise with. Whereas other similar stories might have their main character aspiring for great, lofty achievements, the fact that Sophie keeps it very down to earth makes the story smaller in scale, but much more impactful because you can really see yourself in her shoes.
There are, of course, certain fantastical things that crop up, which add a bit of extra sparkle and humour to her bucket-list, but on the whole, I love how simple her wants are. It also serves as a great reminder that often, happiness can be found in the little things.
The other thing I adored about this book was that it was a love story, but it was primarily a love story between Sophie and Sophie. The journey is all about Sophie learning to love and value herself, and while a romantic interest does pop up, it’s secondary to the main theme of self-love. And I found that really refreshing. Sophie doesn’t pine for a partner to make her whole, she realises that it’s only through her own actions that this can be achieved. And while Paris, Beryl and other characters play an important role in supporting Sophie in discovering her true value, it’s ultimately down to Sophie to follow through and do something with it.
The only downside for me, was that the resolution of the story felt a bit fast. I’d been relishing the calm pace of Sophie’s development throughout the book, and felt that the monument came and went too quickly to really appreciate it.
Overall The House of Paris Le Grand is a heartfelt, beautifully written and uplifting book that I really enjoyed reading. The characters are well developed, and I really connected with them all. I also really appreciated the way the author writes about depression without ever mentioning the word. You get such a powerful sense of the depth of Sophie’s sadness, without having to bring a diagnosis into it. In fact, the word is only really mentioned in the author’s note after the book ends, and I really like how he brings a personal perspective to it all, and ties the themes of the book up really nicely.
In summary, if you’re a fan of rom-coms that feature fun and eccentric characters, or just need a fun and uplifting read, this is definitely worth a go.
The House of Paris Le Grand by Nicholas Robinson is available on Amazon.
The sequel, Building the House of Paris Le Grand, is available for pre-order now. (I’ve been fortunate to read some excepts from the 2nd book, and I am very excited for its release. If you enjoy the 1st book, you’re sure to love it.)