The Secret Paris Cinema Club – Nicolas Barreau – Review

Quercus

Publication date – 4 September 2014

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“Alain Bonnard, the owner of a small art cinema in Paris, is a dyed-in-the-wool nostalgic. In his Cinéma Paradis there are no buckets of popcorn, no XXL colas, no Hollywood blockbusters. Alain holds firm to his principles of quality – to show films that bring dreams to life, make people fall in love. And Alain would do anything for his clientele – particularly the mysterious woman in the red coat who, for some time now, has turned up every Wednesday and always sits in row seventeen. What could her story be?

Finally one evening Alain plucks up courage to invite the unknown beauty to dinner. But just as the most tender of love stories is getting under way, something happens that turns Alain’s life upside down, shoving his little cinema unexpectedly into the public eye. So when the woman in the red coat suddenly vanishes from his life, the cinema owner can’t help but wonder if it is more than a coincidence. Taking matters into his own hands, Alain sets off in search of the stranger he has come to love – roll the opening credits for a timeless cinematic romance worthy of the Parisian silver screen”

4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and this is my honest opinion.

Alain Bonnard owns a small independent cinema in the magical city of Paris. He grew up there, inspired by his Uncle who owned the cinema, his love of film grew. When his Uncle died he was left the cinema. Quitting his job he has poured his heart and soul into refurbishing the place, keeping it as traditional as possible. Amongst all the changes introduced is the late Wednesday showing of old films. Alain soon comes to recognise his regulars, including the woman in the red coat. After seeing her week after week Alain finally asks the woman in the red coat out for a drink. But soon after their first date she vanishes. Alain sets off on a quest to find his true love, taking a remarkable trip along the way.

From the beginning this book gives you a warm glow. The back of the book says ‘Curl up and enter the nostalgic world of cinema: a Parisian Notting Hill with all the charm of Chocolat’. And it’s true. This is just the type of book you can curl up with. The story line, with it’s meandering Paris scenes, quirky characters and tales involving Hollywood stars and acerbic astrophysicists is has a cinematic quality. I would liken it to the written version of Amelie, quirky, slightly avant garde and charming.

I loved the setting of the novel. I could almost see myself meandering along the streets of Paris or down by the Seine or sitting in one of the street cafes as Alain walked by. It added to the charm of the story and indeed I don’t think the story would have been the same had it been set anywhere else.

The characters were all well round. I particularly liked Robert, Alain’s plain talking,  lady killing friend, who told things as he saw them. Alain at times sometimes seemed a little manic bordering on the obsessive. Luckily Nicolas Barreau, a pseudonym by the way, manages to reign him him and retains enough charm and sense to stop him becoming scarily obsessed.

Yes, some bits are a little far-fetched, but ultimately this is a gentle paced, charming, enjoyable read. I’ll be looking out for more work by Nicolas Barreau, and his alter-ego if I ever find out who they are!

This book was previously published under the title One Night in Paris.

 

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