Skip to Main Content (Press Enter) Toggle side nav
Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell
Paperback $15.00
Sep 06, 2016 | ISBN 9780451473707

Buy from Other Retailers:

See All Formats (1) +
  • Sep 06, 2016 | ISBN 9780451473707

    Buy from Other Retailers:

  • Sep 06, 2016 | ISBN 9780698186040

    Buy from Other Retailers:

Product Details


Praise for Letters from Paris

“Best-selling author Blackwell brings us another captivating tale from the City of Light….this romantic and picturesque novel shows us that even the most broken people can find what makes them whole again.—Booklist

“Blackwell paints a picture of Paris that is both artistically romantic and realistically harsh…A compelling story of Paris, art, and love throughout history.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Blackwell has woven a great tale of mystery, artistry, history, and a little romance. With plenty of backstory and tidbits about Parisian life in the 19th century, there’s something for everyone in this recommended read.”—Library Journal

Praise for The Paris Key

“A charming protagonist and a deep well of family secrets, all gorgeously set in the City of Lights.”—Michelle Gable, international bestselling author of I’ll See You in Paris

“A gorgeously-plotted novel woven with luminescent charm.”—Rachael Herron, author of Splinters of Light

“[A] witty, warm, winsome novel…[Blackwell’s] generation-spanning tale combines intrigue and passion with a flawless ear for language and a gift for sensory detail.”—Sophie Littlefield, bestselling author of The Guilty One

“Blackwell’s novel has all of the components that the best novels are made of: an intriguing and compelling storyline, an extremely likable protagonist, a dreamy location and a small dash of suspense and mystery.”—RT Book Reviews

“Better than a travel guide because it carries the essence of friendship, food, drink, story, and history that one can only convey through Parisian residents. Delightful and highly recommended!”—The Best Reviews

Author Q&A


Q: In what ways did her childhood growing up Plaquemines Parish affect Claire’s outlook on the world?

A: Claire grew up with some of the best and worst aspects of a small town: on the one hand, she knew a sense of belonging, rich cultural traditions, and the love and support of a large extended family; but on the other her dreams were defined –and often limited– by her humble background and a narrow perspective on the world. Even after she manages to attain an education and do well in Chicago, Claire has the recurring fear that she might be “too big for her britches” – making her feel guilty about (or at least self-conscious of) the external success she has achieved, as well as her dreams of a different kind of life. Her experiences in Paris and the Franche-Comté allow her to feel culturally comfortable at a certain level, while opening her eyes to a whole new world.

Q: Claire suffers two tremendous losses in her life. Did one of them hit her harder than she was expecting? How long do you think it really took Claire to recognize the impact her mother’s death at such a young age had on her developing personality?

A: I think Claire largely dismissed the trauma of losing her mother so young because of the way the story was told –that Claire was a miracle for having survived– and because she had other family members to care for her. In many ways her father’s alcoholism was even more traumatic than the early “car accident”, since it was an on-going betrayal, capped by a moment of true brutality. But it is not until she arrives in Paris and begins to confront her own fears – that perhaps her mother had intended to kill her as well as herself – that Claire understands she must learn to swim, figuratively as well as literally.

Q: Did your own artistic background influence Claire’s interest in art and sculpture? What do you find most fascinating about the art of sculpting?

A: Yes! I love to write about art. I was trained as a painter (and it’s still my first love) but when I took a sculpting class I was enamored. It was like a whole new world: the sensuality of the curves and voids and spaces, the transformative play of shadows and light on different planes, the building up and breaking down in three dimensions. It was so physical.

Now that I’m a writer, and so much of my life is centered around words, I am particularly aware and appreciative of the non-verbal aspects of painting and sculpture, the pure connection between unspoken emotions and the result of one’s hands. I adore art!

Q: Have you always been fascinated in the existence of death masks? When and how did you first come across the story of L’Inconnue? Did you recognize immediately that there might be an idea for a novel there?

A: The moment I heard about L’Inconnue de la Seine, I knew I wanted to use her story in a novel! I first learned about her when researching moldmaking in Paris, and I stumbled across the phenomenon of death masks. Some consider death masks to be maudlin, but I find them fascinating – they were an attempt to capture “true” faces at a time when photography was nonexistent or rare. And because of their three-dimensionality, they can appear incredibly lifelike, bringing one face-to-face with the likes of Napoleon or Beethoven.

When I visited the Lorenzi Moulage d’Art on the outskirts of Paris, my ideas for the novel developed further. And while L’Inconnue appears in several stories from the Belle Epoque, I found surprisingly little mention of her in modern literature.

Finally, I couldn’t resist the temptation to imagine a different kind of ending for the young model known only as L’Inconnue.

Q: How much do you think Claire’s and Armand’s shared sense of loss provided a window through which they could connect to each other?

A: A great deal. I was influenced by the experiences of several friends who have gone through traumatic events, after which they found it difficult –even painful– to be around “shiny, happy people” all the time. Some sorrows run so deep that the only way one can open up is with someone who truly understands the pain without the need for explanation or description.

Q: What do you think Claire was truly looking for when she set off for Europe? Do you think she had found it by book’s end?

A: I think Claire was looking for home. Like so many of us! She no longer feels comfortable in the town where she grew up, and she isn’t happy in Chicago. When she falls in love with Paris, with sculpture, and with Armand, she finds a place where she can truly be who she wants to be. Where she doesn’t have to hold herself back anymore. As Camille Claudel says in the book, “sometimes the artist she chooses is herself.”

Looking for More Great Reads?
21 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read
Get the latest updates from Juliet Blackwell
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
By clicking SIGN UP, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Penguin Random House’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.
Something awesome is on its way.
Back to Top