Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Paris Trance is a romance, it says so on the cover. It’s not chick-lit, nor a harlequin, and definitely not erotic fiction (though some of the sex scenes will have you holding your breath with their simple, evocative rawness). I started out thinking “oh here we go again, another self-indulgent first novel”; I had never heard of the author before and haven’t since in fact, but you can’t judge a book by it’s cover (especially not in France, where there’s a despotic status quo on austere book cover designs equating with quality).
Thankfully, this work truly delivers – the author explores themes that any expat in Paris will understand (in fact, more than that, will recognize as his own thoughts in his own brain) and paints a portrait of Paris that is at once fresh and steeped in this sense of history, of mythology: Paris, the city of love, of self-discovery, and (yes, yes!) of debauched partying. Dyer captures the act of falling in young love so beautifully, translated in all it’s paradoxical, tear-your-hair-out glory. That is already something of note. The party scenes brought a smile to my lips and the portrait of these characters has depth – they feel real, stolen from someone’s living memories; the friendships feel right, the love makes sense.
Stylistically it has some trailblazing qualities, very clever at times, which brings out the best of the story, culminating in a tragic/optimistic ending that provided a cool, lasting final note. It really made me think, gave me cause to reflect on myself, my adoptive city, and on love both as a general concept and in my own experience.
That’s pretty much what Dyer set out to do, and he did it well.
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