Susan Conley
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Reviews for Paris.

  • Paris Was the Place, by Susan Conley, is a tightly woven narrative in disguise as a matryoshka gem; stories within stories, accounts built upon memories, foundations stabilized by uncertainty. It’s a story of regret, second chances, and blind faith. Don’t let the title of this book fool you: Paris accounts for only a third of the action recounted. From the Sonoran Desert of California, to the bustling energy of Rue de la Clef and the melancholy of Rue de Metz, to the humidity of a teahouse in Dharmsala, your imagination is taken on a journey through time and space. As you discover the stories embedded in this book, you’ll also ascertain that they transcend Paris; that they truly transcend any single, one moment. And with a cast of characters so divine, you’ll wish you could invite them all for dinner, just so you can be a part of their memories for a little while longer.

  • We meet, Willow Pears, an American poetry professor who is brought in to help young girls who have been placed in an asylum center, awaiting freedom, which come from all over the world. As the story progress, Willow becomes more than a friend to one of the young girls, risking not only her job, but also others whom she loves and loves her. Her consequences are huge, but Willow wants to see this girl have a chance at freedom. I think it will be hard for one to stop reading this book once you start going. I thoroughly enjoyed it myself. A great first novel for Ms. Conley.

  • Conley’s first novel allows her to expand her reach with a complex story about a young American woman teaching poetry in Paris in 1989, facing heart-breaking personal challenges that will test her courage and love, as well as a moral and legal dilemma that may prove costly in many ways.

  • Conley's debut novel zips its readers to the Paris of the 1980s, with a plot centering around a young American woman teaching at a center for immigrant girls. At its heart the story explores the ties between family and friends, but Paris Was the Place also delights around the edges with descriptions of a sky "flanged lilac," dove gray apartments buildings, cafes with awnings, and crepes with lemon and butter and sugar.

  • Love of many different kinds powers Susan Conley's first novel, Paris Was the Place. The novel is much more than a love story however. The brief flashbacks are so vivid you would swear the author went through that primal experience.

  • Still smarting from the loss of her mom, Willie Pears moves to Paris to build a life alongside her mysteriously ill brother Luke. Through her work with immigrant girls seeking asylum in France, Willie feels the heady rush of her own mama-bear instinct and falls for a sexy lawyer with a past. But will she risk everything to save one girl? And will her new obligations distract her from Luke when he needs her the most? Conley’s debut novel is a satisfying cassoulet of questions about home, comfort and love, served with a fresh perspective on a dazzling city.

  • Conley writes beautifully, compellingly about confronting death and dealing with loss. Captivating descriptions highlight the hallmarks and quirks of the various arrondissements and neighborhoods with a “you are here” immediacy. In a way, “Paris Was the Place” is like three interconnected novellas involving the same characters. Satisfyingly, each has its own memorable moments and dramatic arc, ultimately weaving together into an ending that is also a new beginning.

  • The author of the acclaimed memoir ‘The Foremost Good Fortune’ has written an exquisite debut novel. American Willow Pears lives and teaches in Paris at a center for immigrant girls who have requested asylum in France. The culture, flavor, keen detail, and literature of Paris, India, and the US are lyrically interwoven in a story about hope, love, family, forgiveness, expectation, risk, loss, and letting go.

  • The characters in this tale of collegiate expat living [have] deeply felt interactions.

  • Still smarting from the loss of her mom, Willie Pears moves to Paris to build a life alongside her mysteriously ill brother Luke. Through her work with immigrant girls seeking asylum in France, Willie feels the heady rush of her own mama-bear instinct and falls for a sexy lawyer with a past. But will she risk everything to save one girl? And will her new obligations distract her from Luke when he needs her the most? Conley’s debut novel is a satisfying cassoulet of questions about home, comfort and love, served with a fresh perspective on a dazzling city.

  • Susan Conley believes in feeding her readers. She gives her reader something to bite into and hold onto. Something to feel. And in Paris Was the Place, the delving is delicious and filling, lingering long after the meal is complete.

  • “Willow Pears — an American poetry professor living in the 1980’s Paris to be near her brother Luke, immerses herself in the vibrancy of the city and the tragedy of an international group of young women incarcerated at an immigration holding center. Deftly exploring the complexities of friendship, family and commitment, Conley adroitly demonstrates her infectious passion for Paris through an extensive and intimate portrait of the inner workings concealed behind its seductive facade.”

  • “In an affecting debut, Willow Pears learns not only to love, but also what matters when dealing with loss and problems that have no solutions. The sympathetic storytelling and limpid first-person narration succeeds in casting a spell.”

  • Paris Was the Place by Susan Conley is an absolutely stunning work of fiction. With her luminous prose she takes us to Paris but not the Paris of the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre but a Paris of Indian restaurants and refugees from wartime strife and other sorts of abuse. Her main character Willie Pears — an American who teaches poetry at a French college — is asked to help out at an asylum for girls who may be deported for being in France illegally. Here she becomes involved in the stories she hears them tell especially with Gita — a girl who desperately doesn't want to be sent back to India but who also can't go live in Paris with the family she has there. Willie meets Macon the lawyer for the girls and sparks seem to fly but Willie has lots of her own issues to deal with and though she has great friends and a brother who also lives in Paris she is still a lonely soul. Willie makes a decision that impacts her relationships with her friends and Macon. Ms Conley has given us a rich tale of friendships and consequences. Her characters are so well drawn that we feel we know them intimately — she takes us to the places they inhabit and pulls us into their ups and downs. I loved being in this Paris — a place of richness and sorrow, of hope and despair and a lot of love.

  • “Stunning imagery coupled with strong sensuality bring Paris, India and the California desert to life. New babies, falling in love, illness and brotherly love are combined in a masterful telling with characters seeming so real, one might awaken thinking about them. Conley gets the sense of place and totally gets the French.”

  • Susan Conley's Paris Was the Place has the kind of emotional weight you hope for in a novel. Its world, by turns achingly beautiful and brutally unjust, is as vividly rendered as its characters, whose joys and struggles we embrace as our own.

  • Susan Conley’s wonderful new novel, Paris Was the Place, is rich with colorful details about the sights, scents and sounds of a foreign land. It is about the complicated bonds of family and relationships, and told with glowing compassion and humor that causes the triumphs to shine, and allows the heartbreaks to land softly in your heart and mind.

  • Susan Conley, author of the beautiful acclaimed memoir, The Foremost Good Fortune, (2011), brings us her exquisite debut novel, Paris Was the Place (Alfred A. Knopf, August 2013). The novel focuses on American Willow Pears, who is living and teaching in Paris at a center for immigrant girls, who have requested asylum in France. The culture, flavor, keen detail and observation, and literature of Paris, India, and the U.S. are lyrically interwoven in a story about hope, love, family, forgiveness, expectation, risk, loss, and letting go. Conley’s novel is sprinkled with humor, as well as questions about social justice, relationship, human tragedy, and grace. As Willow's father, a topographer, states in the book, “You’ve always got to understand your place. Where you've come from and where you’re going. Always ask yourself, What are my coordinates? If you go off the grid, how can you get yourself back safely if you need to?” Conley’s breathtaking novel is about just that — falling on and off the grid of life, and rediscovering your intellectual, emotional, and very real human coordinates. A must read!

  • As evocatively as Susan Conley painted the culture of modern China in her best-selling memoir, The Foremost Good Fortune, she has accomplished anew in depicting Paris and the challenging world of immigrant girls in her emotionally captivating new novel, Paris Was the Place. Willie Pears is a young American woman in Paris and once again author Conley displays her brilliance for describing place. But at the heart of this story are the relationships in Willie’s life — with her brother Luke, afflicted with a mysterious illness, her worldly-wise college roommate Sara and Macon, an attorney at the Parisian center for immigrant girls where Willie agrees to teach. It is here, at the center and in her relationships with the girls seeking political asylum in France, that Paris Was the Place truly takes wing. Conley has clearly lived the life of a teacher and as she works to help the young girls the lines between teacher and maternal nurturer blurs and the reader is wrapped in a warm cocoon of family and friendship and gorgeous, heart-stopping prose and a story that will remain with them long after turning the final pages of this beautiful novel.

  • Willie Pears, a young American just beginning her career as a poetry scholar, encounters passion for the first time in — where else? — Paris. While Willie's passion is awakened in part by a romance, bien sur, but it comes as a rather complete package with the moral, filial, and even maternal variety. Susan Conley's debut novel is an intensely intimate one, very much the internal life of one woman, but the breadth of its material scope — the various relationships, ethical quandaries, and personal challenges — and the depth of its insights reveal its creator's worldly wisdom and polished craft. I was reminded of the work of the likes of Sue Miller, Julia Glass, and Claire Messud and look forward to Conley's next novels.

  • Acclaimed Maine author, Susan Conley’s new book, Paris Was the Place, (Knopf), is not another novel about Paris. Well, the setting is there, and the characters feel truly real, but protagonist Willow's memories often travel back to her American childhood: a pastiche of love, with her dear brother, Luke, and her parents’ disparate life styles in the 60’s.Then there is a tumultuous journey to India, and the story offers way more than just a trip to France. Willie gets tangled in the web of the French legal system of the 1980’s while trying to teach immigrant girls who are seeking French asylum. Where are the boundaries of the heart? Her anxiety for the people she comes to love is then eclipsed by her brother’s grave illness, who is also living in Paris, with his illusive partner, Gaird. Conley's new tale is both fiction and reality, as she taps in to these lives filled with sorrow and joy, determination and binding love. A toast to this talented author!

  • Susan Conley’s wonderful novel is a story of heart and sacrifice. She pulls you into Willie's world and you want to stay forever. Conley creates characters that you fall in love with, particularly the girls in the immigration detention center where Willie is teaching. This is a beautiful novel that explores the nature of family and loss with keen insight and a delicate touch.

  • Susan Conley has written a heartrending and deeply hopeful novel. Its power grows and grows. In patient, gentle prose the book explores global and psychological displacement. Conley does not spare her characters grief or pain—but she gives them the gift of hope, too. Her immigrant girls are tenderly drawn, full of pathos. One feels a need to get close to them, to provide some comfort, to find some way to fix this broken system and this brutal world. Thankfully, Willie Pears—Conley’s big-hearted, clear-eyed narrator—is there.

  • Smart and compulsively readable, Paris Was the Place is a bittersweet meditation on responsibility and family, and on the power of words to save us.

  • Sensual and seductive, Paris Was the Place pulls you in and doesn't let you go. Find your nearest chair and start reading. With her poet's eye, Conley has woven a vivid, masterful tale of love and its costs.

  • Paris Was the Place renders viscerally just how the personal becomes the political, and vice-versa: it’s beautifully eloquent on the shortfall we so keenly feel between the comfort and support we can offer loved ones and the comprehensive safety we wish we could provide. It reminds us through the openheartedness of its compassion of the infinity of ways in which doing what we can for others might represent the best we can do in terms of saving ourselves.

  • In Paris Was the Place Susan Conley has created a vivid portrait of a place and a person. As Willow falls in love, first with the girls she teaches at a detention centre and then with the immigration lawyer charged with helping them, her life becomes increasingly complicated. The result is a suspenseful story, full of moral choices and deep feeling. Willow is an irresistible heroine.

  • Paris Was the Place is a gorgeous love story and a wise, intimate journal of dislocation that examines how far we'll go for the people we love most. I couldn't put it down.

  • Paris is the place where Willow “Willie” Pears can finally live near her brother Luke, who’s moved there with his boyfriend after years in China. She’ll teach poetry, try to get over her mother’s death, and, as the story begins, volunteer at a political asylum center, helping teenage girls practice their English while they wait for their court dates. That’s where she meets attorney Macon Ventri. Willie, as she tells us, has an “eager face” that makes her “hard to deny.” The same could be said of the book; it’s tenderhearted, earnest, and sincere in ways that make it hard to deny, even when Willie gets over-involved with Gita, one of the asylum seekers, and is surprised at the trouble she causes; or when it takes Willie and the other characters much too long to diagnose Luke’s persistent cough and exhaustion. As Conley (The Foremost Good Fortune) draws her, Willie may be a bit precious, but she’s also a true believer—not only in poetry but in love—and the heart of the book is the interlocking love stories, between Willie and the almost-to-good-to-be-true Macon, as well as between sister and brother, daughter and mother, and Willie and her asylum-seeking student.

  • A beautiful love song, as much to Paris as to that tipping point in life when love and loss combine and perhaps, for the first time, both heartbroken and thrilled, you feel acutely what it means to be fully human and alive.


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