Book Review: The Paris Effect by KSR Burns

The Paris Effect
The Paris Effect

All her life Amy has wanted to visit Paris, and she shared her dream with her best friend, Kat, in college. When Kat dies, Amy decides to carry out their thwarted plan on her own. The catch? Amy has a husband, and she doesn’t want to tell him what she’s doing. Egged on and haunted by conversations with the ghost of Kat past, Amy executes the plan and winds up in Paris without her husband’s knowledge.

Told in Amy’s voice, the story reveals an immature, self-absorbed, easily manipulated woman about to turn thirty who clearly shouldn’t be left on her own. Obsessed with her weight, Amy projects her former fat self onto any overweight person who crosses her path. Her coworker Rose receives the bulk of Amy’s contempt with Amy insisting she could never be friends with Rose because “skinny friends keep you skinny and fat friends make you fat.”

Rules of the Perpetual Diet

That, dear reader, is one of Amy’s “rules of the perpetual diet.” In fact, it’s rule number twelve. One of Amy’s many challenges is her fixation on becoming skinny. This is one troubled woman, and her self-loathing comes screaming out as she tells her story. In some aspects, Amy reminded me of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind: spoiled, selfish, entitled.  Unfortuantely, Amy lacks Scarlett’s strength of character. She desires change even if doesn’t know what she really wants or how to go about getting it.

The Paris Effect on Amy

If this all makes Amy unlikeable, it doesn’t make her uninteresting, and Burns’s highly literate, highly engaging writing style keeps you turning pages. Amy’s decisions might make you cringe as she runs away from home as if she were a rebelious teenager, but in the process, she faces truths she’s avoided for years. Her journey toward that end is what makes her initially toxic company bearable. This is a story of self-reflection and self-discovery. But put a pin in whatever you assume might happen, as the effect Paris has on Amy isn’t what you might think. If you’re looking for a romance novel, you’ll be disappointed.

Burns, as Amy, writes with humour and shines a light on the real problems many women face when they wrestle with self-esteem, weight, and appearance issues. She doesn’t shrink from baring Amy’s thoughts to the reader no matter how mortifying they are when exposed to the light. And what better place for Amy to stare down her inner demons than in one of the four fashion capitals of the world?

The book is rife with metaphors as Amy explores the surfaces and plumbs the depths of Paris.

What will she take home with her? What will she leave behind? Will she go home at all? Many questions bubble up as Amy executes her plan, her husband’s role in all this becoming a major elephant in the room even though he shares so little of the story with her. That, too, becomes metaphorical.

What might seem like a light read will make you contemplate your own attitudes. At times, Amy’s thoughts and actions horrify because they strike an inner cord. This book would make an excellent book club work to explore, and Burns has included a reading group guide to make it easy.

About KSR Burns

KSR Burns lived and worked in France for three years. Read more about her on her website’s bio page.