Those of you may know that besides mermaids, Angel (Mermaid Visions) LOVES Anna and the French Kiss, so when she heard I was doing a Paris Month, she jumped at the chance to do a guest post on this book! Follow along as Angel takes us on a trip through Paris in the eyes of the two main characters of this book by Stephanie Perkins.
Personally, I wish I had re-read the book – or at least seen Angel’s post – before going to Paris because I would have definitely made a point to look out for these spots!!
Nighttime Affection: A Trip Through Paris with Anna and Etienne
From the top of the Eiffel Tower to the hidden depths of the river Seine, Paris seems to pulse with mystery and romance. But my favourite love story from France is one that doesn’t quite follow the sentimental, ethereal stereotype. Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss is one of the most charming and painfully honest YA contemporaries I’ve ever read. If you’ve ever talked to me about Anna and Étienne before, you already know how much I adore Perkins’ gift for characterization, and the plot, while predictable, remains enchanting.
But above all else, Paris comes alive in Perkins’ hands, shrinking from the boisterous tourist stops to focus on the cozier places tucked around the city. For those who haven’t read the book, Anna Oliphant is sent to the School of America in Paris by her novelist father. Terrified by the strange new place, she cautiously makes friends and avoids going out as much as possible. Étienne St. Clair–resident Boy Masterpiece–takes Anna on her first real trip around Paris.
It’s a beautiful night. The lights of Paris are yellow and green and orange. The warm air swirls with the chatter of people in the streets and the clink of wineglasses in the restaurants. (pg. 58)
On their first night of exploration, the duo enter the Saint Étienne du Mont–it’s my church, Étienne informs Anna–, found on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. The hill is named after the patron saint of Paris, Saint Geneviève, whose abbey forms the foundation of the church.
As they make their way to the river Seine, Anna and Étienne walk through the Latin Quarter:
Soon we enter an area even more touristy than our own neighborhood, crammed with bustling restaurants and shops and hotels. Street vendors everywhere shout in English, “Couscous! You like couscous?” and the roads are so narrow that cars can’t drive on them. We walk down the middle of the street and through the jostling crowd. It feels like a carnival.
“Hey, you know why they call this the Latin Quarter?”
I raise an eyebrow.
“Centuries ago, the students at La Sorbonne–it was back there.” He gestures with his hand. “It’s one of the oldest universities in the world. Anyway, the students were taught in, and spoke to each other in Latin. And the name stuck.”
A moment of reserve. “That was it? The whole story?”
“Yes. God, you’re right. That was pants.”
I sidestep another aggressive couscous vendor. “Pants.”
“Rubbish. Crap. Shite.”
Pants. Oh heavens, that’s cute.
This is one of my favourite scenes in the book, because not only does Stephanie Perkins do an excellent job of illustrating the atmosphere of a Parisian night, she manages to insert adorable scenes that advance the story and characterization as well.
A visit to the Notre-Dame leaves Anna in awe, but it isn’t until later in the chapter that we see the Chekov’s Gun, so to speak, of their story. Étienne brings Anna to Point Zero des Routes de France, just outside the main entrance of Notre-Dame.
“Mademoiselle Oliphant. It translates to ‘Point zero of the roads of France.’ In other words, it’s the point from which all other distances in France are measured.” St. Clair clears his throat. “It’s the beginning of everything.”
I look back up. He’s smiling.
“Welcome to Paris, Anna. I’m glad you’ve come.”
And with that, the story finally kicks off into a whirlwind of humour, romance and self-discovery that has left YA contemporary novels with something more to aspire to. Not to mention, the adorable Etienne St. Clair (who, incidentally, is my book boyfriend.)
Happy reading everyone, and see you at Point Zero!