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THE SEINE-The River That Made Paris

  • The Savvy Traveler 112 5th Ave South Edmonds, Wa 98020 USA (map)

“A soulful, transformative voyage along the body of water that defines the City of Light. Elaine Sciolino is the perfect guide to the world’s most romantic river.”

—Lauren Collins, The New Yorker Paris staff writer and New York Times best-selling author of When in French: Love in a Second Language

“Anyone who, like me, loves and collects books about Paris will be grateful for this wonderful addition. It’s erudite and energetic, like the river itself. Read Elaine Sciolino’s own story as it emerges from her pages and her travels. I recommend The Seine as both a guidebook and a great bedside read.”

—Diane Johnson, New York Times best-selling author of Le Divorce and Flyover Lives

 Elaine Sciolino is again captivating readers, this time with THE SEINE: The River That Made Paris [W. W. Norton & Company; October 29, 2019; $26.95 hardcover], the follow-up to her New York Times best-selling book The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs. Melding history and mythology, the romantic and the everyday, Sciolino’s depiction of the Seine is a love letter to Paris and the magical river at its heart.

A contributing writer and former Paris bureau chief for the New York Times, Sciolino fell for the Seine when she came to Paris as a young foreign correspondent for Newsweek magazine. In THE SEINE, she traces the river’s origin to a remote plateau in Burgundy and discovers the roots of its name in the story of Sequana, the Gallo-Roman goddess who healed pilgrims at a temple at the Seine’s source. Thus begins a 483-mile journey from source to sea, animated by the river’s lively characters—a bargewoman and a houseboat dweller, a riverbank bookseller and a famous cinematographer known for capturing the river’s light. As Sciolino travels among cities and towns, tributaries and islands, ports and bridges, she patrols with river police, rows with restorers of antique boats, sips Champagne at a riverside vineyard, and even dares to swim in the Seine. Full of rich anecdotes and historical detail, THE SEINE shows the river as a source of life not only for Paris and France but also for the entire world.As Sciolino follows the river’s path, she charts its course through history, recounting how it has carried Roman conquerors, Viking invaders, World War II soldiers, and the ashes of Joan of Arc and of Napoléon Bonaparte in its current. THE SEINE illustrates how necessary the river is to the street life, economy, industry, culture, and identity of France, and Sciolino explores the spell that the river has cast upon musicians, photographers, painters, and writers. Revelatory and brilliantly researched, THE SEINE reminds us why we are enchanted by the river and why the likes of Monet and Matisse, Zola and Hemingway have made it their own.

With THE SEINE, Sciolino captures the centrality of a river that inspired Renoir’s canvasses and a Puccini opera, and had equal significance to the Celtic Gauls and the French kings. Along the way, she reveals how the river that created Paris and shaped the lives of its inhabitants has touched her own life. In an afterword added only just in time for the finished book, Sciolino tells the dramatic story of the fire that ravaged Notre-Dame Cathedral in April 2019, and how “the Seine, the life-giver of Paris, saved the monument that sits at the city’s historic and geographic heart” (330). A blend of memoir, travelogue, and history, THE SEINE will make Paris devotees fall more deeply in love with the city and encourage skeptics to give it another try. Through her intimate tour, Sciolino invites readers to walk with her along the banks of the most romantic river in the world.


Elaine Sciolino is the author of five books of nonfiction, including the New York Times bestseller The Only Street in Paris. She is a contributing writer and former Paris bureau chief for the New York Times and has worked as a foreign correspondent in countries around the world. In 2010, she was decorated as a chevalier of the Legion of Honor, the highest distinction of the French state, for her “special contribution” to the friendship between France and the United States. She and her husband have lived in Paris since 2002.


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