Review: We'll Always Have Paris by Jennifer Coburn

I don't get to travel very much, and so travel books are the way I get to live vicariously through others. I've never read Jennifer Coburn before so I literally just stumbled across the book on the shelf and I read the back of the book just based on the title. I'm a sucker for a book about Paris.

The book details a series of trips that Coburn took with her daughter Katie over a period of years starting when she was young. Coburn always believed that she would die at a young age - she discusses that and her relationship with her father and other issues in the course of the book, which is ultimately as much about that aspect of her life as it is about traveling, about the experience of travel, and about learning about her child through these experiences.

Coburn manages to convey the romance and the excitement and the awe of travel in a way that I could ultimately relate to. Having said that she never shies away from her own shortcomings or failings or how she gets sick almost every trip and while delirious and puking, thinks that this was all a horrible idea and she never should have come.

It helps that her daughter comes off as the greatest travel companion ever and an easy-going child who must be the envy of most adults. There's a scene early on where Coburn describes the arrival of a hamburger at a cafe in Paris, which is topped with a sunny side up egg. The eight year old shrugs and eats it. Later she's wearing a pink beret around Paris and sketching at the museums and honestly just comes across as a lot of fun. (Truthfully if all children were like her, more people would probably have kids).

In the end the book's main shortcoming is that the memoir sections of Coburn's youth, her relationship with her father, while insightful and thoughtful, in some ways felt like a different book. Reading it, I understood why it was there, I understood the relationship between the two sections of the book, structurally it made sense, but I didn't feel it. I honestly just enjoyed and was engaged much more with the "present" as Coburn is traveling and dealing with her daughter.

Over all, though, the book was a joy.

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