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Return to Paris: A Memoir

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Paris, 1947: Colette Rossant returns to Paris after waiting out World War II in Cairo among her father's Egyptian-Jewish relatives. Initially, the City of Light seems gray and forbidding to the teenage Colette, especially after her thrill-seeking mother leaves her in the care of her bitter, malaisé grandmother. Yet Paris will prove the place where Colette awakens to her se Paris, 1947: Colette Rossant returns to Paris after waiting out World War II in Cairo among her father's Egyptian-Jewish relatives. Initially, the City of Light seems gray and forbidding to the teenage Colette, especially after her thrill-seeking mother leaves her in the care of her bitter, malaisé grandmother. Yet Paris will prove the place where Colette awakens to her senses. Taken under the wing of Mademoiselle Georgette, the family chef, she develops a taste and talent for French cooking. The streets of Paris soon become Colette's own as she navigates the outdoor markets and café menus and emerges into her new, gastronomical self. Return to Paris is an extraordinary coming-of-age story that charts the course of Colette's culinary adventures -- replete with expertly crafted recipes and family photographs. An exploration of passion in all its flavor and texture, Colette's memoir will live in the hearts and palates of readers for years to come.


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Paris, 1947: Colette Rossant returns to Paris after waiting out World War II in Cairo among her father's Egyptian-Jewish relatives. Initially, the City of Light seems gray and forbidding to the teenage Colette, especially after her thrill-seeking mother leaves her in the care of her bitter, malaisé grandmother. Yet Paris will prove the place where Colette awakens to her se Paris, 1947: Colette Rossant returns to Paris after waiting out World War II in Cairo among her father's Egyptian-Jewish relatives. Initially, the City of Light seems gray and forbidding to the teenage Colette, especially after her thrill-seeking mother leaves her in the care of her bitter, malaisé grandmother. Yet Paris will prove the place where Colette awakens to her senses. Taken under the wing of Mademoiselle Georgette, the family chef, she develops a taste and talent for French cooking. The streets of Paris soon become Colette's own as she navigates the outdoor markets and café menus and emerges into her new, gastronomical self. Return to Paris is an extraordinary coming-of-age story that charts the course of Colette's culinary adventures -- replete with expertly crafted recipes and family photographs. An exploration of passion in all its flavor and texture, Colette's memoir will live in the hearts and palates of readers for years to come.

30 review for Return to Paris: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    I've really enjoyed reading all three of this author's memoirs. This is the second in the series. I particularly enjoyed reading about her perspective of Americans from her French sensibilities. If there's a fourth book I'll race out to get that one too! I've really enjoyed reading all three of this author's memoirs. This is the second in the series. I particularly enjoyed reading about her perspective of Americans from her French sensibilities. If there's a fourth book I'll race out to get that one too!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Interesting story about a portion of Colette Rossant's life in Egypt and Paris. I found the descriptions of the cities very interesting and the situations the author found herself in a bit sad at times. She apparently had an uninterested parent and a controlling grandmother who took care of her, not for love, but for money. While I felt badly that she had such a terrible family life, the extent the author kept mentioning this had me thinking 'get over it!' many times. Despite this, though, I did e Interesting story about a portion of Colette Rossant's life in Egypt and Paris. I found the descriptions of the cities very interesting and the situations the author found herself in a bit sad at times. She apparently had an uninterested parent and a controlling grandmother who took care of her, not for love, but for money. While I felt badly that she had such a terrible family life, the extent the author kept mentioning this had me thinking 'get over it!' many times. Despite this, though, I did enjoy the book. There are recipes sprinkled throughout which do not use up every pan in the kitchen (much like my beloved Julia Child does!). I had never heard about this woman when I picked this book up on a whim because of the book description 'Paris' and 'food' and I was not disappointed to have read it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Colette Rossant's second memoir and the follow up to the wonderful Apricots on the Nile - again filled with memories and stories from her past and interspersed with mouth-watering recipes along the way. In 1947 Colette returned to live in Paris after spending the years of World War II with her relatives in Cairo. Again, Colette's feckless mother leaves her in the care of fairly unknown relatives, this time her stern maternal grandmother. Luckily the chef of the house - Mademioselle Georgette take Colette Rossant's second memoir and the follow up to the wonderful Apricots on the Nile - again filled with memories and stories from her past and interspersed with mouth-watering recipes along the way. In 1947 Colette returned to live in Paris after spending the years of World War II with her relatives in Cairo. Again, Colette's feckless mother leaves her in the care of fairly unknown relatives, this time her stern maternal grandmother. Luckily the chef of the house - Mademioselle Georgette takes Colette under her wing and teaches her the wonders of french cookery. Paris is where Colette really grows up, where she is wined and dined by possible suitors and discovers love and loss - and meets the man who will finally become her husband. I've enjoyed both of Colette's memoirs and look forward to reading the third instalment.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bella

    A charming read, one I'm excited to discuss in my next book club chat! Rossant's writing isn't the highlight so much as her detailed memories of life in Cairo, Paris, Munich, etc. I will admit I found parts a bit... boring? But fits the bill if you seek a dreamy literary escape abroad! A charming read, one I'm excited to discuss in my next book club chat! Rossant's writing isn't the highlight so much as her detailed memories of life in Cairo, Paris, Munich, etc. I will admit I found parts a bit... boring? But fits the bill if you seek a dreamy literary escape abroad!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Judi Ruckstuhl

    I enjoyed this easy read. I found some of the recipes incomplete. The bolognese sauce had no mention tomatoes in it. Despite this I enjoyed the descriptions of Paris & Cario. I would like to read her other books.

  6. 5 out of 5

    JanGlen

    This is a sequel to Apricots on the Nile and follows the same pattern - a memoir with recipes. Even more than with the earlier book, the author finds in her fascination with food, solace for an unhappy home life. It lacks the exotic setting of Apricots, but is a good read nonetheless.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mitchum

    A plot that races along.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patti

    The book grabs you from page one with well defined characters and a very novel storyline.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    Rossant's characters are not perfect and are ones that is easy to relate to. Rossant's characters are not perfect and are ones that is easy to relate to.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anne Green

    A blend of memoir and food writing. The memoir, while interesting, was less successful, I thought than the food writing and recipes.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kiwiflora

    RETURN TO PARIS by Colette Rossant Who does not like books about food, and French food at that. No pictures in this one, but such vivid descriptions and such love of the food that we don't really need pictures. Colette Rossant is of French and Egyptian descent. Now in her late 70s, she lives in America with her American architect husband James, whom she first met when she was 16. Just like any love story, they immediately fell in love and were finally reunited four long years later. Colette's mot RETURN TO PARIS by Colette Rossant Who does not like books about food, and French food at that. No pictures in this one, but such vivid descriptions and such love of the food that we don't really need pictures. Colette Rossant is of French and Egyptian descent. Now in her late 70s, she lives in America with her American architect husband James, whom she first met when she was 16. Just like any love story, they immediately fell in love and were finally reunited four long years later. Colette's mother was Parisian Jewish French, her father was Egyptian, from Cairo, and also Jewish. Prior to the war the family was living in Paris, when her father was diagnosed with cancer. The family moved to Cairo when Colette was 5 in 1937, where her father died shortly after. Her mother, not the most maternally inclined of women, effectively deserted her daughter, leaving her in the care of her paternal grandparents. The unhappy and lost child found refuge in the kitchens of her wealthy grandparents,in the process developing a love for food and food preparation. After the war, in 1946, when travel was once again possible, her mother, at the demand of her mother in Paris, suddenly reappeared in Cairo, swept up the now 14 year old Colette and disappeared back to France. Colette's life in Cairo is narrated in the beautiful memoir 'Apricots on the Nile'. 'Return to Paris' is the sequel to the first book, and tells of Colette's sudden and difficult shift back to Paris, a city she hardly remembers, to a grandmother and older brother she has not seen for 9 years. Hardly a simple life for a 14 year old girl. After the freedoms of living in Cairo, life in post-war Paris is not easy; the grandmother is a dragon, her mission in life to bring Colette back into the Jewish fold, to turn her into a young lady and to marry her off to a suitable young man. Once again Colette finds refuge in the kitchen with the lovely Georgette who was the family cook when Colette was a young child. After some resistance she slowly rediscovers her love of French food, which naturally is very different from the flavours of the Middle East. She would appear to have plenty of spirit and thrives on disobeying her elders: missing school so she can explore food markets and back streets of Paris, not playing ball with regards to the young men she is regularly set up with by her family, and seriously enjoying her love of good food. The memoir finishes when Colette is in her early 20s, having married her sweetheart and migrated to New York, again not an easy shift for her, but her love of food becomes the key to her acceptance of her new life. Throughout the book are recipes of dishes from her days in Paris. Omelettes aux Fines Herbes, Chicken Fricassee, Tomato Salad, Pommes aux Gratin, Rabbit with Prunes and Lentils, Crepes, Onion Soup, Raspberry Tart to name just a few. With one or two exceptions, all of the recipes are very straight forward, depending, like all great meals, on good quality ingredients combined with what appears to be easy technique and a bit of time. I really enjoyed reading this. Having read 'Apricots on the Nile' some years ago, I knew reading this would be like meeting an old friend and catching up on the next instalment. Most of the book covers her teen years and as we know being a teenager is never an easy time in life. She is very honest and open about the difficulties she has with her family and the expectations placed on her, and I imagine at times she fully deserved their anger and rules! But I never felt like I disliked her, or that she was getting too big for her boots! Totally charming and self-deprecating, with this overriding passion for food and personal discovery, I think she is just gorgeous. By the way the Tomato Salad is delicious, be careful of garlic burps the next day.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Francis

    Memoir of an interesting life, recipes included that might appeal to foodies, prose a little flat for my taste.

  13. 4 out of 5

    BJ

    Colette Rossant was born in Paris. During the war years, she was sent to relatives in Egypt. Eight years later, she returns to Paris as a teenager. This book is the story of her time in Paris while she is finishing school, living with a very domineering, at times abusive grandmother until the time of her marriage in her early 20s. Ms. Rossant's greatest confidantes in her life are the cook at her Egyptian grandparents house and then later, the cook at her French grandmother's house. Therefore, s Colette Rossant was born in Paris. During the war years, she was sent to relatives in Egypt. Eight years later, she returns to Paris as a teenager. This book is the story of her time in Paris while she is finishing school, living with a very domineering, at times abusive grandmother until the time of her marriage in her early 20s. Ms. Rossant's greatest confidantes in her life are the cook at her Egyptian grandparents house and then later, the cook at her French grandmother's house. Therefore, she spends a lot of time in the kitchen, learning an appreciation for food. The book includes a lot of these recipes and she is very descriptive when speaking of her love affair with food. This book was very easy to read and I loved the descriptions of food and the recipes, a few of which I would like to try. Ms. Rossant has written a couple of other memoirs, one of her time in Egypt which took place before this book and the other takes place after this one, when she goes to New York with her American husband. I would like to read these also.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dvora

    This was a nice book but not brilliant. Her story is interesting -- she is partly Jewish, partly Catholic (her mother converted to Catholicism and pressured her to convert too), of a French mother and Egyptian father, spending a good hunk of her childhood in Cairo -- and I love that she is so interested in food. But her writing is stilted, it doesn't flow, and the editing could have been better. Still, I enjoyed it overall and took special note of the fact that here was one person who, for good This was a nice book but not brilliant. Her story is interesting -- she is partly Jewish, partly Catholic (her mother converted to Catholicism and pressured her to convert too), of a French mother and Egyptian father, spending a good hunk of her childhood in Cairo -- and I love that she is so interested in food. But her writing is stilted, it doesn't flow, and the editing could have been better. Still, I enjoyed it overall and took special note of the fact that here was one person who, for good reasons, did not enjoy her life in Paris.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Rossant keeps her focus tightly on her day to day experience as an Egyptian French Jewish convent educated teenager rejoining her family in Paris after WW2 and negotiating a complicated identity. The recipes and meals are vivid and the reader gets to know the hungers and moods of the teenage narrator through what she eats. I was left hungering for a bigger perspective and context for this story.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    After the Second World War the author Colette returns to Paris, after spending 8 years in Egypt. I really enjoyed this book. We see how the author has to adapt to life with her elderly grandmother,attending a Catholic convent school, abandoned by her flighty mother,after spending her childhood with her huge extended paternal Jewish Egyptian family. I especially loved the description of life and cuisine in both of the countries.

  17. 4 out of 5

    JodiP

    I came across this while researching guidebooks to Paris. What a find! I can't believe I've never heard of Rossant before, and now want to read everything. I enjoyed how she slipped back and forth in time, and how she persevered to pursued Jimmy. I wonder what would have happened if she hadn't contracted TB and had to give up her career in chemistry? I came across this while researching guidebooks to Paris. What a find! I can't believe I've never heard of Rossant before, and now want to read everything. I enjoyed how she slipped back and forth in time, and how she persevered to pursued Jimmy. I wonder what would have happened if she hadn't contracted TB and had to give up her career in chemistry?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    I guess it was the cover photo, a classic Parisian cafe in black and white photography that got me, that along with the title, I'm definately a dreamer here. Didn't keep me turning the page, but still good, just not the of these types of books. Oh, as always, little bits of food bytes, recipies, that make it fun. I guess it was the cover photo, a classic Parisian cafe in black and white photography that got me, that along with the title, I'm definately a dreamer here. Didn't keep me turning the page, but still good, just not the of these types of books. Oh, as always, little bits of food bytes, recipies, that make it fun.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Enjoyable, hard to put down. Reading this I felt I was getting a true depiction of Paris at the time, and after the descriptions of meal you will feel hungry! I would like to read more books by this author.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Guinevere Johansson

    I felt that this book was hurried; but about 1/2 way through I started to gain more of an interest. The novel is cut with some great recipes throughout - so if you're into French, Egyptian or Italian cuisine, you'll appreciate the recipes. I felt that this book was hurried; but about 1/2 way through I started to gain more of an interest. The novel is cut with some great recipes throughout - so if you're into French, Egyptian or Italian cuisine, you'll appreciate the recipes.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Toni Matteson

    Never has a book reminded me so much of being in Paris than this one. It is like you are really there!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

    Boek in één ruk uitgelezen. Het is zeer levendig geschreven, je waant je op de plekken en je kan de gerechten bijna proeven.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    A beautiful read and a very interesting insight into this particular geography of WW2. Lots fell into place for me reading this book . Highly recommend it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I thought I was buying a book by Collette the French writer and discovered this book. I actually enjoyed it very much and knew nothing of this author!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I love stories with recipes.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mirani Litster

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  28. 4 out of 5

    Meaghan Renner

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stacey Ballis

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

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