Paris, 7 A.M.

Paris, 7 A.M.

The acclaimed, award-winning author of A Watch of Nightingales imagines in a sweeping and stunning novel what happened to the poet Elizabeth Bishop during three life-changing weeks she spent in Paris amidst the imminent threat of World War II.June 1937. Elizabeth Bishop, still only a young woman and not yet one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century,...

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Title:Paris, 7 A.M.
Author:Liza Wieland
Rating:

Paris, 7 A.M. Reviews

  • jo

    Gosh, this book. This is a loving tribute to Elizabeth Bishop in the form of a novel that reads a bit like an extended Bishop poem. I have long loved Bishop's work, but knew pretty much nothing about her life. Paris, 7 A.M. is a bit experimental, in that it doesn't worry about explaining how Elizabeth-the-character gets from place (physical, situational, relational) to place. Time passes between the chapters and we are not filled in (the intervals are longer and longer as the novel winds to an

    Gosh, this book. This is a loving tribute to Elizabeth Bishop in the form of a novel that reads a bit like an extended Bishop poem. I have long loved Bishop's work, but knew pretty much nothing about her life. Paris, 7 A.M. is a bit experimental, in that it doesn't worry about explaining how Elizabeth-the-character gets from place (physical, situational, relational) to place. Time passes between the chapters and we are not filled in (the intervals are longer and longer as the novel winds to an end). Other characters come and go and we are not told everything but left to guess, or not. I didn't bother guessing. I went with the incredible language and Wieland's evocation of Bishop's mind and her many mind-states.

    After I finished I rooted around in the interwebz and found that Bishop had a really tortured childhood and a life full of pain. There is clear intimation of this in the novel (the running theme of abandonment), but this is not a painful novel. At least it wasn't for me. As I said, a lot is left off the page and you can fill in the blanks by looking stuff up, or not. I have to say that I felt some frustration at first: why isn't Wieland telling us more? But Elizabeth feels so lost, so mystified for much of the time -- just really confused at the world around her -- that I thought, Okay, so Wieland is giving us Bishop's mind, and the fogginess of the novel reflects Bishop's own fogginess.

    There is also, by necessity, a sense of ominousness. The Paris part leads us up to the brink of full Nazi takeover (there is already some Nazi takeover) and you know, people go about their business, I mean, they are alarmed, they are worried, but they are nowhere near as terrified by the doom that right around the corner as they should be. And this put me very much in mind of the USA now, cuz I am feeling this doom every day, and yet go about my life, feeling fundamentally untouched, fundamentally safe. Hard to imagine that Wieland didn't have this in mind when she wrote the book. So I'm going to call this my third Trumpian novel, after 's

    and

    's

    .

    Lastly, I confess I would have liked more lesbian action. This is me. The book overflows with lesbian desire and it is clear that Elizabeth is getting love and tenderness and sex and reciprocation. Still, maybe leaving it to the imagination is good too.

    I loved this book, I loved discovering this author, and I'm looking forward to my backlog of novels by her!

  • Nancy

    Serendipity

    On Monday, April 15, Notre-Dame was in flames.

    A horrified world watched, joined in tears.

    ***

    On Tuesday, April 16, during my husband's surgery,

    I was in a waiting room

    reading Liz Wieland's Paris, 7 A.M.

    And I read, "The crazy quilt of languages around Notre-Dame,"

    and I read, "The being that will appear will emerge from the guest bedroom

    will be hideous, a sort of gargoyle

    come down off the sheer facade of Notre-Dame,"

    and I read, "In an hour, it's lighting a candle in Notre-Dame,"

    and I

    Serendipity

    On Monday, April 15, Notre-Dame was in flames.

    A horrified world watched, joined in tears.

    ***

    On Tuesday, April 16, during my husband's surgery,

    I was in a waiting room

    reading Liz Wieland's Paris, 7 A.M.

    And I read, "The crazy quilt of languages around Notre-Dame,"

    and I read, "The being that will appear will emerge from the guest bedroom

    will be hideous, a sort of gargoyle

    come down off the sheer facade of Notre-Dame,"

    and I read, "In an hour, it's lighting a candle in Notre-Dame,"

    and I read, "the great squatting hulk of Notre-Dame,"

    while the television in the waiting room aired

    photographs and videos of the "great squatting hulk",

    the gleam of the cross rising out of the ashes like a beacon.

    I have never seen Notre-Dame or Paris or France.

    I have not had the luck to have been a traveler.

    No memories rushed forward, just sorrow for what was lost.

    But the book brought Paris alive for me,

    albeit a Paris from long before my birth,

    a Paris just before the war,

    with intimations of war

    quivering in the atmosphere.

    The Novel

    Geography

    In 1937, the young poet Elizabeth Bishop and two Vassar friends

    traveled to Paris.

    For three weeks, Elizabeth did not write in her journal.

    Liz Wieland wondered about that silence

    and imagined Bishop's life over those missing weeks,

    the mysteries she held close and never revealed.

    Elizabeth and her friends,

    full of youthful optimism

    in spite of the disorder on the continent.

    Louise of the blue eyes.

    Anaphora. Margaret's horrid accident.

    And the people they meet,

    Sigrid who married for safety,

    and the Countess Clara Longworth de Chambrun

    who sees in Elizabeth her deceased daughter

    who sees in Elizabeth a co-conspirator.

    Paris 7 A.M. reflects Bishop's poetic voice, steals her imagery

    and the titles of her books of poetry, Easter eggs

    left to find in the days before Easter when I was reading.

    So many hidden in the paragraphs beyond my ken.

    "And then the clocks speak," I read.

    The clocks, the time, the water, sailing,

    the drinking, the women,

    the traveling, and the traveling.

    "Why do you travel?" I read. Questions of Travel.

    And she answers, "To be free." "To see beauty."

    It was coming, people sensed, knew

    the world would shift again, war inevitable.

    "The world is getting so ugly," I read.

    "The swastika, a headless spider," I read.

    The Jewish babies lovingly handed over

    by desperate loving mothers

    into stranger's arms

    to travel into another mother's arms.

    Elizabeth's mother could not mother

    Elizabeth would never become a mother

    Elizabeth was a midwife in the babies’ rebirth.

    Elsewhere

    Back to the known, Wieland's pen

    flirts across the years

    touching like a butterfly on a flower

    upon Bishop's travels.

    Florida. Brazil. America.

    Letters from Marianne Moore, Sigrid, Louise.

    Sailing with 'Cal' Lowell.

    A summation of a life's losses.

    And I read,

    "Does everybody live such divided lives, Elizabeth wonders: one self moving about the world like all the other million selves, and another that's stuck somewhere behind?"

    I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  • Tammy

    Beginning in 1930 at Vassar and continuing through 1979, this work of fiction conceptualizes the life of Elizabeth Bishop. The main focus is her time spent in Paris prior to WWII and her impressionable years as a fledgling poet. Primarily based on Bishop’s journals, there are three weeks during 1937 that are not chronicled so the events of this time period are unknown which allows the author to speculate about what may have happened. Throughout the novel the theme of children being sent away

    Beginning in 1930 at Vassar and continuing through 1979, this work of fiction conceptualizes the life of Elizabeth Bishop. The main focus is her time spent in Paris prior to WWII and her impressionable years as a fledgling poet. Primarily based on Bishop’s journals, there are three weeks during 1937 that are not chronicled so the events of this time period are unknown which allows the author to speculate about what may have happened. Throughout the novel the theme of children being sent away surfaces again and again. In one scene, Bishop and Clara Longworth Comtesse de Chanbrun rescue children by sending them away.

    There is a dreamlike quality throughout this work which parallels Bishop’s interest in surrealism. However, Bishop is not a surrealist and her modernist leanings are apparent in some of her observations of the mechanical. In my mind, Bishop is not an obvious confessional poet either but Wieland permits us to observe Bishop disclose her private thoughts. The lack of quotation marks deadens dialogue for me although I do understand that this technique lends itself to create the tone of a journal. This novel takes the title of one of Elizabeth Bishop’s poems which I would recommend reading.

    Naturally, Marianne Moore makes appearances as do, notably, Sylvia Beach and Natalie Burney. Regardless if you know a lot, nothing or, like me, a little bit about Elizabeth Bishop this is a book well worth reading. I am inspired to read Megan Marshall’s biography about Bishop in order to contextualize one of my favorite poets.

  • Joan Happel

    This beautifully, crafted novel of historical fiction, relates events in the life of poet Elizabeth Bishop while visiting Paris on the brink of World War II. Bishop, a meticulous keeper of journals, had a three-week gap in her journal of 1937. She has just graduated from Vassar College and is not yet the poet she will become. Wieland poses a scenario between Bishop and an older-women, who recruits her into helping rescue two Jewish children, placing them into a convent and saving them from the

    This beautifully, crafted novel of historical fiction, relates events in the life of poet Elizabeth Bishop while visiting Paris on the brink of World War II. Bishop, a meticulous keeper of journals, had a three-week gap in her journal of 1937. She has just graduated from Vassar College and is not yet the poet she will become. Wieland poses a scenario between Bishop and an older-women, who recruits her into helping rescue two Jewish children, placing them into a convent and saving them from the holocaust. The story shows her introduction to Marianne Moore, who will be her mentor and while in France, Bishop meets Sylvia Beach, Natalie Barney and German deputy ambassador Ernst vom Rath (his assassination was used as the pretext for Kristallnacht). The remaining chapters move quickly through the rest of Elizabeth’s life and relationships, touching briefly on her friendship with the poet Robert Lowell.

    There is a dream-like quality to Wieland’s prose, lending the writing a feeling of surrealism. What is real and what is imagined? Bishop seems to be standing back and observing the events unfolding around her, trying to decide her place in what she sees. There is a strong sense of time and place, and the relationships Bishop has with the women, who were possibly her lovers, is handled gently. I would recommend this novel to fans of Elizabeth Bishop, as well as fans of historical fiction.

    Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the e-ARC.

  • Tara

    An inventive plot, an imagined act of resistance, and a poet's narrative voice. Some absolutely gorgeous passages:

    "I keep thinking about mercury...The way a drop of it will join smaller drops to it. The drop grows larger, but it keeps its original form and quality. Like the past. I don't think you can understand the past in the order things happened."

    Wieland uses this premise of mercury accumulating in order to gather together in her novel daily observations with a poet's sensibility. These

    An inventive plot, an imagined act of resistance, and a poet's narrative voice. Some absolutely gorgeous passages:

    "I keep thinking about mercury...The way a drop of it will join smaller drops to it. The drop grows larger, but it keeps its original form and quality. Like the past. I don't think you can understand the past in the order things happened."

    Wieland uses this premise of mercury accumulating in order to gather together in her novel daily observations with a poet's sensibility. These gatherings make a greater whole with the purpose of trying to understand poet Elizabeth Bishop's life, particularly during a three week period in France.

    "That's what waves do. They arrive, same as dreams do, sames as travelers do, their bags full of flotsam and jetsam, the orderly folding inside always undone by the rough treatment of porters and dockhands."

    Though it can be hard to follow the waves at times, and the flotsam and jetsam is not always satisfying, I'm in awe of this writer's ability to craft a sentence and create a fluid, dreamlike presence on paper.

  • Sue

    Imagine there was a knowledge gap of several months in the history of your life. For most of us, that would not present a problem. For followers of poet Elizabeth Bishop this presents more of a thought provoking issue for Bishop maintained daily journals throughout her life, except for much of 1937 when she stopped entirely. In Paris, 7 A.M., Liza Wieland has imagined what may have happened to Elizabeth during this important post-college year as she works to develop her skills and learn more

    Imagine there was a knowledge gap of several months in the history of your life. For most of us, that would not present a problem. For followers of poet Elizabeth Bishop this presents more of a thought provoking issue for Bishop maintained daily journals throughout her life, except for much of 1937 when she stopped entirely. In Paris, 7 A.M., Liza Wieland has imagined what may have happened to Elizabeth during this important post-college year as she works to develop her skills and learn more about herself and the world.

    Reading Paris, 7 A.M. has been an odd experience. At times I was captivated by the use of some sparkling or powerful imagery while at others I was confused on the most basic level of who was speaking/narrating what I was reading. The absence of punctuation and frequent lack of identifiers, combined with the fact of so much of the book taking place within Elizabeth’s mind, makes some true conversation difficult to parse out. As the story proceeds, thankfully, this becomes less of an issue.

    Perhaps if I had gone into this reading with more knowledge of Bishop and her work I would have understood more of what I read. Of course that’s impossible now. There are pleasures here especially in some of the wonderful imagery sprinkled throughout the book. And, as we come to know and experience Elizabeth more, and as she has meaningful experiences in pre-World War II France in the second part of the book, there is more to enjoy in this recreation of her life. Rated 3 to 3.5*

    A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  • Jypsy

    I thought I would enjoy this book much more than I actually did. I wanted more of a focus on Elizabeth Bishop and her work, but that aspect felt lacking. The narrative style was not my favorite either. Overall the story had the potential to be much better but fell short. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.

  • Faith

    This book is comprised of overwritten and overthought sentences. “The whole landscape of colleges scaffolds and pillories, stocks and bonds, glass houses, and stone lying around everywhere. These notions, like wolves, drift in from the darkened edges of her mind.” Every little mundane detail gets ridiculously embellished. Maybe that’s the way poets look at things, but I found it pretentious and unbearable. “The desks are wild floating islands, mountainous with books, with flotillas of pencils

    This book is comprised of overwritten and overthought sentences. “The whole landscape of colleges scaffolds and pillories, stocks and bonds, glass houses, and stone lying around everywhere. These notions, like wolves, drift in from the darkened edges of her mind.” Every little mundane detail gets ridiculously embellished. Maybe that’s the way poets look at things, but I found it pretentious and unbearable. “The desks are wild floating islands, mountainous with books, with flotillas of pencils and pens cruising about the shallows.”

    I made it to the 33% point, and nothing approaching “a life-changing adventure” had appeared. I didn’t have the patience to wait for its arrival and abandoned this book. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  • Deanne Patterson

    Well researched story based on the life of poet Elizabeth Bishop.

    "The formative years of one of America’s most celebrated—and mythologized—female poets."

    Lots of information given, presented fact like, it wasn't really a story. I made no connection with the characters. I wanted more of a focus on Elizabeth Bishop and her work but it was lacking.

    The book had the potential to be much better . The plot,the characters,the setting it flitted all over the place, no connection. The story did not flow

    Well researched story based on the life of poet Elizabeth Bishop.

    "The formative years of one of America’s most celebrated—and mythologized—female poets."

    Lots of information given, presented fact like, it wasn't really a story. I made no connection with the characters. I wanted more of a focus on Elizabeth Bishop and her work but it was lacking.

    The book had the potential to be much better . The plot,the characters,the setting it flitted all over the place, no connection. The story did not flow like I am used to reading.

    Published June 11th 2019 by Simon Schuster

    I received a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you.

    All opinions expressed are my own.

  • Melissa Crytzer Fry

    This is another of those books I’m at a loss to rate. Because I often enjoy poetic writing in literary works of fiction, I was thrilled to see this book was written

    a poet and

    a poet. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t explain the simultaneously troubled relationship I have with poetry, stemming from a professor’s MANY-year’s-ago pronouncement that my interpretation of a Romantic-Era poem was “out there.” (Mind you, I did not raise my hand to volunteer my interpretation and had

    This is another of those books I’m at a loss to rate. Because I often enjoy poetic writing in literary works of fiction, I was thrilled to see this book was written

    a poet and

    a poet. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t explain the simultaneously troubled relationship I have with poetry, stemming from a professor’s MANY-year’s-ago pronouncement that my interpretation of a Romantic-Era poem was “out there.” (Mind you, I did not raise my hand to volunteer my interpretation and had always been a bit intimidated by poetry. That event sealed the deal, filled with embarrassment as I was in front of my classmates).

    So, perhaps I bring that baggage to my reading of this novel with its beautiful, passionate language, metaphors, and its story of one of America’s influential 20th century poets.

    For me, I felt the book jacket copy was misleading; I thought the story would revolve around the saving of Jewish orphans, when – in fact – that plot point played a very minimal role in the story. The book seemed, more so, a book of sexual discovery. It also is filled with lines and lines of text and dialogue written in French and German – where I was unable to determine the context of what had been said. There are zero quotation marks for dialogue (which I confess I had trouble with). Characters are introduced without any formal introduction from chapter to chapter (making it helpful if you already know the biographical background of Elizabeth Bishop). This is especially true toward the end of the book. I didn’t know who half the characters were and why they were present, except that they were (I learned from research) part of the real-life Elizabeth Bishop’s past.

    There are lovely and heartbreaking mother-daughter themes throughout which I appreciated. I also read other positive reviews and respect those who loved this book and believe it just wasn’t the right fit for me. For my tastes, there was too much unsaid – too much reading between the lines – and the reading of this novel felt like the solving of a riddle. I was off-balance and felt as though I was missing ‘something’ from chapter to chapter, unsure of what was actually happening throughout. Perhaps I was searching for some type of “story structure” that I could not recognize, and this book ultimately cemented the fact that experimental fiction is not necessarily for me. Or maybe, as my professor said, my interpretation of the book is just “out there.”

    If you love poetry, have an interest in Elizbeth Bishop, and aren’t afraid of unique storytelling, this might be the book for you.

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