Please sign in to post.

Love Letter to the Seine

That's Elaine Sciolino's new book, The Seine: The River That Made Paris. Paris-lovers may remember her recent book The Only Street in Paris, about the Rue des Martyrs. A former New York Times bureau chief who has lived in Paris for many years, she takes the reader on a symbolic journey from the river's headwaters in Burgundy to its estuary at LeHavre, including history, scenery, and legends. The central part of the book focuses on the river in Paris, with chapters on swimming, songs, lighting at night, fishing, the lives of barge operators, photography, the river police, floods, the bookstalls, and other topics. I found some of this fascinating, and some a bit TMI. But I really enjoyed the chapters about the river upstream and downstream from the big city, including what's known about Sequana, the Roman-era goddess whose temple was near the headwaters.

In a final chapter written after the 2019 fire that almost destroyed Notre Dame, she describes the fire and how it was extinguished in the nick of time, thanks to river water pumped by a fireboat that raced to the scene. "The holy waters of the river that once bore the name Sequana saved the greatest cathedral in the world," she concludes. "I want to believe that the spirit of the goddess Sequana herself lives on."

Highly recommended for any Francophile or anyone who might become one. Amazon has the book but of course it's for sale elsewhere and was available in my public library.

Posted by
3029 posts

Thanks for this , Dick . I love her writing and always read her pieces in the Times ,

Posted by
1038 posts

I love both of her books.
She's an excellent writer, using herself as a character in the story she tells without making it all about her.
Rick has done 2 interviews with her which are very nice.

Posted by
2447 posts

Dick- Thanks for the recommendation. I will add this book to my must read list! Fond memories of the “magical Seine.”

Edited to add: If luck would have it I was fortunate to find the book @30% off today. After 23 years, one of my favorite travel stores in Edmonds, WA. is having a retirement sale. Apparently the author (Elaine Sciolino) did a seminar & book signing there. Nice to have an autographed copy!

Posted by
7448 posts

Great recommendation Dick, thank you!

Posted by
6204 posts

I know this thread has been quiet for quite a while but I couldn't resist bringing it up.

Has anybody else been reading this book? I borrowed it from the library, but about 1/3 of the way in I decided I might need to buy a copy of my own to use as a reference guide. As I read it I find myself making note of place names and locations that I think I would like to go see if I get back to France again. Going back to France for another extended vacation was not in my plans but now I'm visually mapping out a route for a long road trip through that area of France to see the source of the river and to follow it to Paris based on her route and the towns she visits along the way. It's actually getting me excited about traveling again in a couple of years when it's safe and the 'new' travel norms shake out - I was beginning to wonder if I would get that excitement back again.

If you love Paris and/or France in general and the Seine in particular, I highly second the recommendation of the OP, especially if you're interested in history of places. And it's a very well written and easily readable book.

Posted by
2447 posts

Hi Nancy,
As I reported up thread I bought the book and am half way through it! I echo your sentiments. It is very well written and easily readable book. As a Francophile I highly recommend this book.

Enjoying all the locations she describes along the way. It certainly makes me want to revisit Paris again! Thanks for sharing your review. Another thank you to Dick as well!

Posted by
4382 posts

After we heard Sciolino being interviewed on Rick's radio show, we immediately got the book from the library. We both enjoyed it very much. I plan to reread it before out next trip to France (2022?) and make careful notes.

Posted by
1669 posts

I’m reading it now, it’s delightful. I bought 2 copies for myself and a gift for a friend’s birthday. He loves Paris.
I’m so glad to read something that takes me away from the dreariness of the election slog right now. Omg, please let it be over with.

Posted by
1669 posts

Just have to add how much I’m enjoying this book! It’s pleasant, easy to read but full of information about Paris and France. Preparing myself for my hoped-for trip to France next year. At least 2022, then.