The only street in Paris Life on the Rue des Martyrs

Elaine Sciolino

Book - 2016

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New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company, Inc [2016]
First edition
Physical Description
xiii, 294 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [283]-294).
Main Author
Elaine Sciolino (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

On the Seine's right bank, Paris' rue des Martyrs climbs north from near the Place Saint-Georges almost to the foot of Montmartre's Sacré-Coeur. Newspaper reporter Sciolino moved adjacent to the rue des Martyrs, settling into a delightful apartment above a fireworks merchant. Falling in love with the neighborhood, she made friends with merchants, tradespeople, and residents all along the street, and bit by bit they shared neighborhood history and invited her behind doors to see wonders casual visitors would never discover. Yet on even so relatively short a street, Sciolino reports disdain of those dwelling on either side of the great boulevard bisecting the rue des Martyrs between two arrondissements. As in many urban areas, residents resist economic and social forces that strip neighborhood character, replacing unique shopfronts with chain stores that displace owners accustomed to living above their businesses. Readers familiar with Sciolino's dispatches to the New York Times will value her deft reporting and witty prose. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Rue des Martyrs is more than just a street, it's an enchanting and bustling community in Paris. At just over half a mile long, spanning between the Ninth and 18th arrondissements, this street is filled with four- and five-story buildings of varying architectural designs, with picturesque wrought-iron balconies and shuttered windows and small businesses at street level. As the author (La Seduction), a former Paris bureau chief for the New York Times, explores her neighborhood, she describes its fascinating history, from ancient churches and the saints and martyrs the street may be named after to the 19th-century Cirque Medrano. The quaint cafés and shops remain locally owned, per Paris law, and their merchants and artisans are the leading characters of the book—and of the street. There's Roger Henri, who pushes a cart with a bell offering his knife-sharpening services; Michou, the owner and creator of the transvestite cabaret at No. 80; and Laurence Gillery, the woman who restores antique barometers, the last of her kind. The atmosphere on rue des Martyrs is refreshing and enticing in our modern world. VERDICT A must for readers who are interested in travel, Paris, or the expatriate life. [See Prepub Alert, 5/11/15.]—Melissa Keegan, Ela Area P.L., Lake Zurich, IL [Page 99]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Sciolino (La Seduction), an American-born writer who now lives in Paris, takes readers for a cultural and historical stroll along her adopted city's venerable rue des Martyrs in this warmhearted, well-researched gem. The street, located in the vibrant ninth arrondissement, is largely untouched by progress, and the greengrocer, cheese shop, butcher, baker and other old-time merchants feel quaint; there is a cart-pushing knife sharpener and a mender of antique barometers. Famed transvestite performance nightspot Cabaret Michou, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette church, and the Grand Synagogue of Paris are long-lived neighborhood landmarks. Historically, the neighborhood was host to Thomas Jefferson, Emile Zola, and bohemian artists, musicians, writers, and critics; Sciolino occasionally feels their ghostly reappearance. "For me, it is the last real street in Paris, a half-mile celebration of the city in all its diversity," she writes, adding, "This street represents what is left of the intimate, human side of Paris." Sciolino, a seasoned journalist and former Paris bureau chief for the New York Times, also addresses contemporary culture such as France's rising anti-Semitism, recounting the terrorist attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in January 2015, after which the street's merchants placed "Je suis Charlie" signs in their windows. Readers will appreciate her mixture of the tenacity of journalism and a warm memoir-like quality. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Nov.) [Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The former Paris bureau chief for "The New York Times" invites readers to join her on a tour of her favorite Parisian street, in a part memoir, part travelogue, part love letter that celebrates the rue des Martyrs' rich history and pays homage to the people who live there.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"Part memoir, part travelogue, part love letter to the people who live and work on a magical street in Paris. Elaine Sciolino, the former Paris bureau chief for the New York Times, invites us on a tour of her favorite Parisian street, offering an homage to street life and the pleasures of Parisian living. 'I can never be sad on the rue des Martyrs,' Sciolino explains, as she celebrates the neighborhood's rich history and vibrant lives. While many cities suffer from the leveling effects of globalization, the rue des Martyrs maintains its distinct allure. On this street, the patron saint of France was beheaded and the Jesuits took their first vows. It was here that Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted circus acrobats, âEmile Zola situated a lesbian dinner club in his novel Nana, and Franðcois Truffaut filmed scenes from The 400 Blows. Sciolino reveals the charms and idiosyncrasies of this street and its longtime residents--the Tunisian greengrocer, the husband-and-wife cheesemongers, the showman who's been running a transvestite cabaret for more than half a century, the owner of a hundred-year-old bookstore, the woman who repairs eighteenth-century mercury barometers--bringing Paris alive in all of its unique majesty. The Only Street in Paris willmake readers hungry for Paris, for cheese and wine, and for the kind of street life that is all too quickly disappearing"--Provided by publisher.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Offers a tribute to one Paris street, the Rue des Martyrs, exploring its rich history and the varied lives of those who live there.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

This accessible, b&w photo-illustrated narrative combines memoir, travel writing, and history to explore the Parisian street called the Rue des Martyrs, which inspired painters Degas and Renoir and continues to inspire novelists and filmmakers. Author Elaine Sciolino, a writer for the New York Times who now lives in Paris, reveals the dark ancient history behind the street and considers the more recent history of Jews in the neighborhood and the impact of Charlie Hebdo attacks. Of special interest are detailed portraits of shopkeepers, artisans, and merchants, including the owner of a transvestite cabaret and the proprietor of a 100-year-old bookstore. Cuisine is also celebrated as part of daily life on the street. The bibliography lists books, web sites, articles, essays, dissertations, films, reports, and songs related to the Rue des Martyrs. Annotation ©2016 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (

Review by Publisher Summary 5

New York TimesNanaThe 400 BlowsThe Only Street in Paris