About the book

Senses of Paris cover: Robin Bower, author

WINNER OF THE PARIS BOOK FESTIVAL 2017,
ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY CATEGORY

Get the Kindle version HERE.

Senses of Paris is a collaboration of words and illustrations by two old friends inspired by Paris. Author, Robin Bower, and artist, Christine Vandenbergh, have created a visual commentary on their impressions of this city that is both a romantic cliché and a chaotic modern metropolis.

Why Paris?

Twenty-five years after we both travelled to Paris independently as young people, Christine and I decided to visit Paris together this time as an artistic journey. Having been several times, I wanted to really experience the place so we decided to stay in an apartment in Montmartre. I thought it would be exciting to record the trip. Christine as an artist and myself as a writer would be a good combination. That gave us the opportunity to really take in the detail, drink in observations and have a visceral experience.

The senses

I found that Paris confronted my senses more than anything so I naturally divided the book in my head into sections depicting the five senses which is how the book developed. As we visited art museums, restaurants, cafes, historic stores and just walked through the streets of Paris, we each recorded our observations in our personal way. Paris is full of music, diverse sounds, scents and colour. We also found that living in the African quarter in Montmartre gave us a rich and culturally diverse experience so part of the book is devoted to the diversity of its people.

The writing

Once the senses were divided into sections, thoughts materialised into prose about a certain experience or event. Some writing is more of an instant impression about a sight or sound, or a pungent aroma that lends itself more to a poem or haiku. As well, there are several longer pieces on the following:

  • Our impression of Monet and his significance to Paris, his paintings and techniques, and his final home in Giverny just outside Paris.
  • The experience of visiting the Louvre and the Mona Lisa, protected under glass, and how a smile might be represented.
  • Our dining experience in the home of a French artist in Montmartre, amidst the history and art of the area.

Then there are poems that express a reaction from the senses, a memory jolted by a scent, or a joyous celebration of food.

The book

The book contains quotes from famous French writers, photographs that relate to the words, and of course, gorgeous original artwork by Christine. We have incorporated some notes pages to encourage travellers to take the book with them to Paris. These pages are a place to make your own observations, or store tickets, currency, brochures and other material as keepsakes within the book.

What came first — the words or the pictures?

Sometimes it worked out that I would just write my poem or piece from an experience and Christine would create a picture based on that. At other times, Christine created the image and I would write a piece about that image. I wanted something extraordinarily colourful as a double page spread on the first page and I absolutely love what she came up with — it seems to incorporate everything in the first image. And we seem to have a thing for rabbits for some reason… For the Sight section, rather than redo Monet’s images, I wanted something that had a sense of him but was completely different which I think she has achieved. The idea was to have vignettes of people, places and things interspersed with short pieces of writing.

Contrasted against the colourful images are black and white drawings that show much more detail. The Montmartre piece nicely captures the kaleidoscope of activity that envelops Paris. I included a poem about the attacks on Paris to show that Paris is vulnerable and that tragedy can occur amidst beauty. The last image of the winged victory of Samothrace (or the Nike) superimposed on the Eiffel Tower, suggests that victory can be gained through creativity and beauty. Indeed, a city like Paris thrives on its ideal of art as sustenance for its people. 

Senses of Paris: The Winged Victory of Samothrace (NIKE)Top customer reviews

This is an original, personal depiction of contemporary Paris. I love the combination of words and paintings inspired by the travellers’ experiences, and the way these conjure up the city’s assault on all five senses. As you turn the pages, you don’t know what to expect next – like turning the corner on a Paris street. Robin and Christine have also thoughtfully included space for the reader to add their own observations. I’d highly recommend this as a travel journal for those planning to visit Paris, or seasoned travellers who will find the city brought back to life for them as they relax in their armchair over the holidays.

This is a lovely book to read before going to Paris and to take with you on your travels there. Delightful insights into the sensory stimulus that is inherently Parisian, with heartfelt prose and poems by Robin and wonderfully evocative illustrations by Christine.

 

What a delightful book. A truly rich and evocative journey of the senses. I felt like I was in Paris again which I visited many years ago. After reading and breathing in this book I would adore to go back again. I loved this inspiring book.

 

C’était très bon, j’ai pensé que c’était magnifique et je suis surpris que ce n’est pas sur la liste de New York best-seller … un triomphe absolu.


 

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