Book Review: Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

Publisher: Canongate
Selected Edition: Paperback
ISBN: 978 0 85786 405 5
Published: 2012 [1998]
No. of Pages: 280
Price: £8.99

At the beginning of September, I started a new job working on reception for the publisher Canongate Books. One of the perks of the job is, of course, free books and for one of my first picks I read Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer. I hadn’t heard of him before and when I started giving the reception bookshelves a bit of a rejig I came across it and immediately fell in love with its name. Paris, France, Paris Trance

The novel begins when Luke moves to Paris in his early twenties from London and tries to forge a life there. He is looking for something he finds hard to grasp, perfect moments that he feels he cannot achieve back home in England. He takes up work at a factory and meets a friend there, Alex, with whom he becomes quick friends. Together they are looking for something and both seem to find it in a woman, for Luke comes Nicole, and for Alex, Sahra. The couples become attached and pass their days together, socialising, clubbing, taking drugs, cooking and holidaying together.

It is a heady year for them as they become increasingly involved in themselves as a group, passing days in discussion in coffee shops and bars, and having lived abroad myself, detached from family and your friends, I liked the way that Dyer portrayed that quick closeness that travellers develop when they are in a city that is not their own. Friendships are forged quickly and become all-encompassing in a search to find a new support unit.

I loved the accounts of their two holidays together – the first, a trip at Christmas to a house in the middle of nowhere, how they settle in, get lost on a walk in the mist and the presents they give each other. It sounded like a road trip I would love to have been on. And the account of their summer spent doing up the factory owner’s house seemed like a dream too, hazy summer days in the countryside, whiling away the time.

There was something about this book that seemed, if you’ll forgive me, really real – the friendships, the dialogue, the sex, the accounts of their time together. None of the events are in themselves particularly extraordinary, but I think it is all the more beautiful because of that. It is a celebration of the time being, the moments that pass us by that perhaps we don’t appreciate enough. For Luke in particular this feeling of lost youth, moments already gone is ever-present. He is always drawing attention to moments, feeling that he will never be this happy again, mourning moments before they have even passed, suffering a strange detachment in his refusal to just enjoy what is happening.

I would confidently say that this has been one of my favourite books of the year – I already want to start reading it again! We have quite a few books by Geoff Dyer – I can’t wait to read The Colour of Memory which sounds a bit like Paris Trance. You can find out more about Geoff Dyer and his books here.

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