Source Books in New York contacted me a few weeks ago asking whether I would review New York Times Dessert writer, Amy Thomas' new novel on her year in Paris and all the confectionery decadence it has to offer... Of course I jumped at the opportunity.
An Haut Appétit recommendation of the highest for "Paris My Sweet; A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)":
"Thomas writes with a candid authenticity that endears her readers to her genuine story of sweet self-discovery, all the while unashamedly making the reader torturously hungry for every dessert she describes. "Paris My Sweet…" is an expert and lovingly collected list of bakeries, patisseries, and chocolateries in The City of Light and The City That Never Sleeps. Anything but a predictable read on desserts, Thomas' palette for all things sweet should be on every Sweet Freak's to taste list. This certainly is one dark chocolate journey you need to go down."
Please see the full review...
"Paris My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)"
A Novel By Amy Thomas
Dessert literature has become a predictable fairy tale of sweet meanderings of the palette. Predictable can be seen as a deterrent, if one is looking for an alternative read to the usual fluffy stories of cakes and confection. So, be relieved and delighted at this new, all-consuming tale of sweet promise where it is everything but predictable. Author Amy Thomas connects two of the greatest cities in the world, The City of Light and The City That Never Sleeps, in ways that only a macaron would know how! "Paris My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)" becomes Thomas' playground for cathartic revelations of a decadent and indulgent variety.
Thomas, a New Yorker and high-profile advertising writer, leads an enviable life that sees her encountering New York City's smorgasbord of bakeries and dessert bars that she enshrines in her not-so-closet food blog "Sweet Freak". But she could never have guessed that the world's greatest dessert mecca, "The City of Light (and dark chocolate)", would be the reason for an ironic twist of fate in her once familiar story of sweets. Yes, Paris - guilty of stealing people away from mundane lives and hurling them into a passionate whirlwind of its ineffable beauty, decadent chocolat chaud, and sophisticated indulgences. And so, she leaves all that she knows behind for a lucrative new job offer in Paris as an advertising writer for one of the world's top fashion houses, Louis Vuitton; she leaves her beloved New York for a new dance with Paris.
On the foreign stage of Paris, Thomas divulges an intimate and personal tale of her road to self-discovery where boulangeries and pâtisseries are her road map to over-coming life's hurdles as a lost New Yorker in a foreign city. At first, the charm of Paris keeps her in a romantic daze of pleasure where she indulges in every nuance of the city, including Pierre Hermé's simply haut macarons. She muses over the phenomenon of a transatlantic confectionery trade between Paris and New York and how quintessential desserts have traded thrones - macarons to New York and cupcakes to Paris. But soon her struggles with communicating in a foreign tongue, adjusting to an intense new job, and the notorious snobbery of Parisians begin to take a toll on her positive spirit. She finds solace in the delicate confections of her favourite bakeries around Paris, but over a big American cupcake, she yearns for her old love, New York.
Sandwiched between her love of two cities, feeling uprooted, lost, and alone, she begins an ambiguous questioning of her relationships, her life and in which city to live it. "Fate or control? New York or Paris? Breakfast or dessert?" Over a culinary battle between french toast and pain perdu, a cathartic self-discovery awakens her to the realization that she needn't have all the answers nor be in control - she doesn't need to be perfect (even if to the dismay of Parisian men.) Perhaps it was the freedom of riding the Vélibs, or the glorious Place Vendome, or a melty bite of a Nutella street crêpe, but in the end, she chooses Paris.
"Paris My Sweet…" is a fun encyclopedia for all the sweetness Paris and New York have to offer told through the eyes of a real-life fairytale. But Thomas' story is much more than mere bakery reviews of Paris and New York, it is her journey of self-discovery and how each bakery and every dessert becomes part of that journey. Her life-changing move across the proverbial pond from one of the greatest cities in the world to the next is punctuated by these delicious encounters in the telling of that year that changed her, that city that changed her, those desserts that changed her...
Here, desserts become her vehicle for catharsis and with every bite that fills her emotional hunger, she purges her melancholies (including her parent's divorce as a child, feelings of imperfection, and of being a foreigner living abroad.) "All those years after the divorce, there was a Technicolor parade of sweets masquerading as my companions… They never disappointed me. They had the magical power to console and cheer me up… To this day, a cupcake can make me feel like all is well in the world." As New York and Paris vie for her affection, she too vies for her own love and self-acceptance. Ironically, through the perfection of Parisian patisseries, she finally embraces her imperfections. By accepting herself, she ceases her struggle for self-perfection, leaves parfait to the chocolate parfaits, and realises over a pain perdu that she can have her "gâteau and it eat it too."
Thomas writes with a candid authenticity that endears her readers to her genuine story of sweet self-discovery, all the while unashamedly making the reader torturously hungry for every dessert she describes. "Paris My Sweet…" is an expert and lovingly collected list of bakeries, patisseries, and chocolateries in The City of Light and The City That Never Sleeps. Anything but a predictable read on desserts, Thomas' palette for all things sweet should be on every Sweet Freak's to taste list. This certainly is one dark chocolate journey you need to go down.
By Elizabeth Minett, Author of Haut Appétit Blog
For more information on Amy Thomas, please visit her website. "Paris My Sweet" is available at Amazon, BarnesandNoble, and IndieBound.