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Review: The Secret Paris Cinema Club

When I replied to this intriguing tweet from Quercus at the start of the month, I didn’t know what to expect.

I did try and work out what the book in question might be (and failed spectacularly) and settled down to wait for the package, which duly arrived bearing a copy of The Secret Paris Cinema Club by Nicolas Barreau – which is out today in its shiny English language edition.  With the author name and the subject matter, I was surprised to find that this is a novel in translation from the German – not from French.  I went looking because I would have loved to have read this in French back in my university days when I had to review a French language book a term (my choices back in those pre-e book days tended to involve dry French classics which I struggled through and did not enjoy).

So, a plot summary:  Alain owns and runs Cinema Paradis – an arthouse cinema in Paris.  He is a man after Mark Kermode’s heart – his cinema doesn’t sell popcorn and he has strict rules about the sort of films that he’ll show.  He’ll also do anything for his customers – particularly one of his regulars – a woman in a red coat. But just after he eventually plucks up the courage to ask her out, she unexpectedly vanishes just as his cinema gets a new lease of life…

This book reminded me in some ways of one of my favourite French films – Amelie.  It’s fun, it’s quirky, it’s almost ridiculous in places and the city of Paris is practically a character in its own right.  Despite Quercus’ tweet, I’d say it’s more about films and acting than it is about theatre – and it’s about secrets and coincidences as well.  The Secret Paris Cinema Club is a little gem of a romantic comedy, which will bring a smile to your face as autumn arrives.  It’s also chock full of film references and quotes – I’m sure I didn’t spot them all – and it’s given me some really good ideas for French films to watch.

This book wasn’t on my radar until I won a copy from Quercus – but it brightened up my commute during nightshift week and I’m hoping that it’ll find an audience beyond sleep-deprived Francophile chick flick fans.  You can find the Secret Paris Cinema Club here and on Kindle here – and if you’re in the US be aware it was published as One Evening In Paris in the States.

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