Judith Armstrong reviews 'Ransacking Paris' by Patti Miller

Judith Armstrong reviews 'Ransacking Paris' by Patti Miller

Ransacking Paris: A year with Montaigne and friends

by Patti MIller

University of Queensland Press, $29.95 pb, 274 pp, 9780702253393

Judith Armstrong

Judith Armstrong

Judith Armstrong’smost recent book, War & Peace and

...

Patti Miller has written four books of or about memoir, one of which, The Mind of a Thief (UQP, 2012) won the New South Wales Premier’s History Award, and she has taught life writing for more than twenty years. Yet her most recent publication, Ransacking Paris, while enjoyable at one level, is disappointing at another. There is a serious mismatch between form and content, the jarring discrepancy between them not helped by the characteristic peculiar to all memoir of the writer being present on virtually every page. This memoir wears not only its heart, but its author on its sleeve; there is a whiff of Josh Thomas’s recent television series Please Like Me in its tone.

When the writer is honest, modest, and disarming, what’s not to like? Miller is clearly a likeable person, generously sharing with us her memories of a year’s stay in Paris happily accompanied by her sympathetic husband. The voice is consistent, her personal style well-honed. Then what is the issue? Well, the content, and, yes, its presentation. This memoir is not just about the fulfilment of a long-standing dream to live in the fabled city, or how, arriving in Paris with very little French, she got to know both the language and the locals through one-on-one conversation classes, even joining a choir and performing in a street concert. It is also about classical French memoirists, medieval and modern, Montaigne, Beauvoir et al.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.