The World of 1870 Paris

While launching Paris In Ruins, a number of authors and bloggers hosted guest articles featuring the world of 1870 Paris.

On the Washington Independent Review of Books, editor-in-chief Holly Smith invited me to write about The Enduring Allure of Paris.

Paris—a city ingrained in our imaginations. A city that is both grand and lived in, a city of massive cathedrals and quiet neighborhoods, a city full of mystery and romance. The city of love, the city of light. Why have writers flocked to Paris for hundreds of years? A brief dip into history sets the stage. In the middle ages, the Catholic church established schools attached to major monasteries to train scholars not only for the church, but also to serve in government. Read more …

On Sarah Johnson’s well-known blog Reading the Past, I wrote about the Delights of a Research Trip to Paris.

Paris In Ruins is set during the Franco-Prussian War, the Siege of Paris, and the Paris Commune. I arrived at these momentous events not by design but by calculating when two characters from an earlier novel, Lies Told In Silence, would be roughly twenty years old. I had imagined a novel about friendship between these very different women with a dash of romance and perhaps some tangled family dynamics. However, when I discovered a war, a siege, and a bloody insurrection, the plot took on much more drama. For more …

Author Elizabeth St. John and book blogger Davida Chazan hosted an article about Sarah Bernhardt’s involvement in the Siege of Paris.

In My Double Life, Bernhardt mentions her decision to establish a hospital (ambulance): “The Odéon Theatre had closed its doors, but I moved heaven and earth to get permission to organise an ambulance in that theatre, and, thanks to Emile de Girardin and Duquesnel, my wish was gratified. I went to the War Office and made my declaration and my request, and my offers were accepted for a military ambulance. The next difficulty was that I wanted food. I wrote a line to the Prefect of Police. A military courier arrived very soon, with a note from the Prefect containing the following lines … read more …

Rats, Trees and Breadlines was an article I wrote for author Judith Starkston’s blog

Imagine knowing that an army of more than 400,000 soldiers was approaching your city. How would you feel? What preparations would you make? Would you worry about your children, the men you loved who’d enlisted to defend the city, your friends and family? Would you wonder how you would feed your family and whether or not your job was secure? With winter only a few months away, would you be concerned about having enough wood or coal to keep your fires burning? Read more …

The spark of inspiration – or how Paris In Ruins came about – was hosted by authors Elisabeth Storrs and Char Newcomb.

Writers are not always masters of their own stories. There are editors to please, early readers who help tune the story, husbands and friends who offer suggestions—the list goes on. Each new story begins with a glimmer of an idea, that spark that ultimately leads to a finished novel. The challenge is to feed that spark and breathe life into the fire as the writing process unfolds. For that we need inspiration on an almost daily basis. Read more …

I hope you enjoy reading more about turbulent world of 1870 Paris. I’m deeply grateful to these individuals who supported the launch of Paris In Ruins.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available for pre-order on Amazon USAmazon CanadaKobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

19th Century Paris

As you can imagine, writing a novel set in 1870 Paris requires lots of research. Historical events are critical, fashion is important, issues of the day, culture, social norms and so on. But what about the homes where Parisians lived?

Ian and I had a research trip to Paris that involved 3 weeks in an AirBnb apartment designed to provide an experience that was closer to living in the city, rather than staying in a hotel. Three weeks of walking the streets gave me a different appreciation for how Parisians live.

Of particular interest were the hotel particuliers – grand homes – we visited: Musée Cognacq-Jay, Musée Jacquemart-Andre, Musée Carnavalet, and Musée Nissim de Camondo. I wanted to understand how my two main characters, both from well-to-do Parisian families, might have lived including the layout of such homes, the décor, the furnishings, the paintings and other accoutrements of their lives.

Museee Jacquemart-Andre – Paris

The splendour and luxury of these grand homes were astonishing, and although they inspired relatively brief descriptions, they gave me images to carry in my head as I wrote.

Musee Nissim Camondo
Musee Carnavalet

At one point in the writing process, I became obsessed with understanding the layout of Camille’s and Mariele’s homes. A search brought forth some floor plans which helped me add further details.

Mariele’s home – principal rooms
Mariele’s Home – adjoining suites for her parents

Gardens, kitchens, breakfast rooms, wardrobes, beds, desks, chairs and more created a world in which I and my characters lived quite comfortably together while I wrote their story.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS  is available for pre-order on AmazonUSAmazonCanadaKobo and Barnes & Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Paris Reborn

Beginning in the 1850s, Napoleon III tasked George-Eugene Haussmann, newly appointed prefect of Seine, with the rebuilding of Paris. As Stephane Kirkland said in his book Paris Reborn, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte “had a great ambition for Paris. He wanted to transform it into the most modern and functional city of the world, a city where wide, convenient boulevards suitable for modern transportation would replace narrow streets, where elegant ladies could walk without treading in filth and decay, where new neighborhoods would rise to house the swelling population; he wanted a city that would represent the principles of order and modernity of his presidency …”

View of Place de la Concorde and the Champs Elysees in 19th century Paris with Arc de Triumph in the distance

Kirkland goes on: “It was a heavy-handed enterprise, which achieved its ends at tremendous human and cultural cost and wiped from the map an old, much-loved Paris … the Second Empire rebuilding of Paris was responsible for creating one of the world’s great cities.”

If you’ve been to Paris, you will have had the pleasure of walking those wide boulevards conceived by Napoleon III and admiring the Haussmann-style architecture of five- and six-storey buildings that dominate the city.

Historical accounts say that Napoleon III “installed a huge map of Paris in his office, marked with coloured lines where he wanted new boulevards to be.”

Like any large public venture, the rebuilding of Paris created winners and losers. Those with insider knowledge made fortunes. Many of those whose homes or businesses stood in the way of one of Napoleon III’s boulevards lost everything. Another consequence of this new Paris was to replace the heterogeneity of the old neighbourhoods, with new arrondissements that put “the rich with the rich and the poor with the poor.” Ile de la Cite is a good illustration. “In fewer than ten years, a veritable hive of human activity, with a complex organic structure of houses and little streets, was cleared away and replaced by large open spaces and boxlike institutional buildings.” The population of the island in the middle of the Seine fell from 15,000 to 5,000.

Along with the boulevards and new apartment buildings designed to house Paris’ growing population, Napoleon III created splendid new parks and gardens and new churches to mollify the working class. New department stores, new sewage and water systems were also built. The avenues were planted with chestnut trees.

Parc Monceau – intended for wealthy Parisians

The families of my two protagonists in Paris In Ruins, Camille and Mariele, are from the wealthy class that benefited from the rebuilding of Paris. Indeed, Camille’s father made some of his money by leveraging insider knowledge. But the seeds of unrest were sown. Seeds that would ultimately lead to the Paris Commune.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available for pre-order on Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Kobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.