There are few cities as iconic as Paris. The French capital seems to ooze elegance, class and culture – in certain parts of the city at least – and it’s a place that always seems to be striving to keep its appearance up. One obvious way in which this is shown is in the city’s gardens. Paris is known for its careful curated jardins, and there are few things that locals and visitors can enjoy doing more on a sunny day than reclining in the green spaces.
When it comes to novels with Paris as a backdrop, the choices are endless. From the Da Vinci Code to Interview with a Vampire, all aspects of the capital have been explored through literature. One book which seems to articulate Paris in the way that the Parisians would likely most appreciate though is the children’s book of Madeline.
Penned by Ludwig Bemelmans, the tale of Madeline is probably well known by many of us as children, if not as parents. It tells us of the fierce nature and brave heart of a little girl who lives at a Catholic boarding school along with 11 other girls, under the charge of Miss Clavel, Madeline’s teacher and nurse.
The first of Bemelmans’ Madeline books follows the school girls and their teacher through the city, before Madeline is sent to hospital with appendicitis. This narrative encounters everything from the Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower, with a walk through some gardens, and long the river Seine added in for good measure. Though the places aren’t always explicitly named in the text, it is through the books illustrations that you see the idyllic, lush representation of Paris.
It’s the words atop the rich imagery that create the elegant and lyrical representation of Paris. The rhyming tale borders the gap between poetry and prose in a really articulate and clear way, making it the perfect read for children (and those wishing to reminisce).
It’s a tale that’s responsible for a love of everything French in many, many of the adults that grew with Bemelmans’ stories, and a definite way to engage the city’s cultural flavour before even setting foot in France!
Are you inspired by the French culture?