Book Review: Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log by Karen A. Chase

Title: Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log
Author: Karen A. Chase
Genre: Travel memoir, non-fiction
Publisher: Karen A. Chase
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: E-galley from the author for a BookSparks tour
First line: Last year, I was asked if I was going to do anything special when I turned forty.

When I was first approached about reviewing Bonjour 40, I said no, simply because I had already committed to two book tours in November and two in December. But then, I watched the book trailer:

The video, plus the fact that I’m currently taking French with my high school freshman, and that I’m turning 40 in a year, and that I’ve always wanted to go to Paris… Well, my “no” turned into “yes.” Bonjour 40 is a delightful, witty memoir written in bite-sized installments, since it started out as a blog. Karen Chase has taken those blog posts, and added essays that expound on her history as a travel bug and her experiences taking photos, writing, reading, eating, and loving in Paris.

I have to admit that reading this book induced tons and tons of envy – I literally salivated over the descriptions of the food and of her visit to the famous bookstore, Shakespeare & Co. Karen writes beautifully and her descriptions of Paris and the people and sites and smells and tastes allowed me to live vicariously through her. Karen is a self-professed travel bug, and I can only hope that she will continue to write about her adventures, because I would love to read about them.

Bonjour 40 is available in e-book form for Kindle, Nook, iPad, and iPhone. To give you a taste of Karen’s writing, here is an excerpt:

On photography

Until now, I had been sliding in with the rest of Paris, staying up late and sleeping in. But for a photographer, it’s all about finding the right light, and the best time for that is early morning or late evening. I can look at photos now and tell you approximately what time of day they were taken. Many of mine from the first two weeks were taken between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That had to change.

So that’s when I set aside a few times to capture Paris at sunrise and sunset. Paris is a nighttime city and so no photo collection would be complete without a shot that captures the flicker and the traffic. Early evening brings the ultraviolet blues and purples, paving the streets with lavender and platinum. But her mornings are devoid of the noise.

At sunrise, the city is naked, stripped down, still resting to gear up before another metropolitan, tourist-filled day. The layout of the streets, and the glorious Seine and bridges wake up with her as she becomes the city of morning light. The air is still cool and clear, the only sounds are of the occasional café opening up or a street cleaner going by. Sunrise brings the glorious red end of the light spectrum, which in Paris makes the stone of the buildings glow as if they are painted with gold.

It was then, cycling across her streets with my camera over my shoulder, that I realized it was in my going off to capture the city on film, that I am capturing internal memories. The memory of me gliding down the empty Champs-Élysées, light just barely touching each leaf of each tree, the morning breeze tugging at my hair—it is a feeling that is photographed within me. As if the memories are taken like photos in multiple-shot bursts, I can visually pull up every frame of that single adventure so they run together like a film in slow motion. Riding. Soaring. Free. Peddling. Living. Moving. Creative. Awake. Wonderful, happy memories.

This entry was posted in memoirs, non-fiction and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Book Review: Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log by Karen A. Chase

  1. ChrisCross53 says:

    Paris is wonderful, and this book sounds fascnating. I seem to have a collection of ‘French’ books at the moment – a couple of crime novels set in Paris (from library), a Balzac (from a charity shop), A Weekend from Paris by Robin Sisman (passed on to me when my mother finished it), Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and I want The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (Hemingway’s first wife)… Maybe I’ll set myself a Paris Reading Challenge…

  2. Kailana says:

    This sounds good. Nice review!

  3. Trisha
    Twitter: Trish422

    Sounds like this book really came at the right time for you!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Trisha – yes, it was definitely one of those incidents of book serendipity. 🙂

  4. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I adore Paris – this book sounds like it was written for me.

  5. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – December 4, 2011 (the “November reading wrap-up” edition) | BOOKS AND MOVIES

  6. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads

    What an adventure and opportunity!

  7. Arti
    Twitter: Arti_Ripples

    That is indeed an enticing book trailer. I was in Paris a couple of years ago and had thoroughly enjoyed the sights you’ve highlighted here in your review (not cycling though). And this summer, there was the Paris in July event on the blogosphere. For the occasion, I read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife. Thanks to your review here, I’m back to soak in the excitement again.