Paris plays a crucial role in Margaret of the North. There, John and Margaret honeymoon in mid-1800s Paris:
They gawked, dumbfounded but with great interest, at the spectacle of a city undergoing massive renovation. Debris from the demolition of old structures lay next to new construction, vast areas were being cleared apparently for gardens and parks…..
They find the experience transforming. John has been driven largely by a quest for fortune, respect, and fame. After Paris, he begins to appreciate “careless days of ease.” He also mellows. Sees others in a more humane way. More like Margaret’s way.
They arrive in a Paris going through massive reconstruction. Georges-Eugene Haussmann was improving roads and buildings. He would change not only the look of the city but also the way people lived. Charles Marville, a photographer, took pictures of these changes. Painters of the period also immortalized the life of Parisians. Their art broke away from the dictates of the Académie Française. As they modernized art, masters and workers were bringing economic life into the 20th century.
John and Margaret witness these changes. They join Parisians in a favorite pastime, the promenade. They walk leisurely from their hotel on rue de Rivoli, to and along the river, on various streets. They see neighborhoods where the working class live, often in dire conditions. The hotel concierge points out famed monuments, passages, and notable buildings. But it’s the poverty in working class quartiers that affect Margaret most.
And, whoever visits Paris without lingering in cafés? John and Margaret, like every other tourist, join the vibrant café culture:
As bracing as the promenade was, they found the cafés more intriguing, an ideal setting where visitors could idle over coffee or drinks among the French and observe them play out what being a Parisian meant. John and Margaret embarked on an exploration of the many cafés where Parisians crowded to talk and debate and, in some, even to be entertained by performers singing local airs and operatic arias.
In Margaret of the North, you get a bit of history. About art. About Paris.
Click below for a slideshow of old Paris in art and photos.