May 26, 2017

“Paris,” French TV series on MHZ

Those wanting to improve their ear for current spoken French might enjoy Paris, a 2015 French tv series currently available on MHZ network. The first few minutes are confusing, but try to finish episode one of the six episode series. A seemingly random cast of characters will quirkily cross paths in the next 24 hours.

A woman who is a union rep for transportation workers will deal with her troubled husband, her transgender son/daughter, her soldier son and have a private meeting with the Prime Minister of France. The PM will deal with a runaway son, his distraught wife, his staff, his frenemy, the current Attorney General and political intrigue of all sorts. The Attorney General will inadvertently deal with his pregnant housekeeper, his journalist wife and the transgender son mentioned above. The pregnant housekeeper’s ex-con Muslim husband will get a job working at the funeral home owned by the brother-in-law of the female union rep.
You get the picture.  We are shown a kaleidoscope of people in Paris from working class, to wealthy and powerful along with very shady characters involved in strip joints, gambling, burglary and smuggling young women across the French border. All will become part of the woven tapestry that is Paris.

Every person depicted is somewhat an anti-hero with both good and bad qualities on display, but you will marvel at how the plot knits all of their lives together. In the process, you do get a sense of a day in the life of Paris, albeit a day that is transfused with love, crime, politics and high drama.

For a monthly fee, MHZ is available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.  Here are some other articles I have written about MHZ, the streaming service that caters to lovers of European dramatic television programs.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

I was in a quandary whether to mention The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George in my culture notes since it has elicited such opposing opinions. Two different friends who read a lot absolutely hated this book. Written by a German author who has a home in France, the novel has been an international bestseller in several European countries and received a favorable review from so I decided to give it a try despite mixed reactions.

In short, while the book has several flaws, including some insisting George misses the mark in describing male emotions,  I enjoyed this lyrical story about the power of books, travel, music and food to heal the wounds of grief, self-recrimination and lost love. It even has recipes at the back of the book.

Yes, some of the characters do improbable things. Most people wouldn’t wait twenty years to open a letter, nor would they take their book-laden Parisian barge on a river road trip through the heart of France.  If you can read it as magical realism akin to books Like Water For Chocolate or The Night Circus, you will perhaps have a more forgiving literary experience.*

If you like short novels set in Paris and the provinces of France and you don’t mind characters who talk about literature, you could do a lot worse than this light and charming work of fiction by Nina George. Then again, you may be in the other camp who would rather eat moldy French bread with rancid butter than read this book. Vive la difference!

*I had to jog my memory about the definition of magical realism. Here is one description:

Magical Realism is a wonderful literary device, one in which the reader is invited to use ones five senses and imagination to get to the depth of the story.   It is more common in Latin-American literature. Magical realism invites the reader to look at the normal surroundings and simply accept the magical elements that may occur.