Paris in the Present Tense

Paris in the Present Tense

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Mark Helprin's powerful, rapturous new novel is set in a present-day Paris caught between violent unrest and its well-known, inescapable glories. Seventy-four-year-old Jules Lacour--a maître at Paris-Sorbonne, cellist, widower, veteran of the war in Algeria, and child of the Holocaust--must find a balance between his strong obligations to the past and the attractions and beauties of life and love in the present. In the midst of what should be an effulgent time of life--days bright with music, family, rowing on the Seine--Jules is confronted headlong and all at once by a series of challenges to his principles, livelihood, and home, forcing him to grapple with his complex past and find a way forward. He risks fraud to save his terminally ill infant grandson, matches wits with a renegade insurance investigator, is drawn into an act of savage violence, and falls deeply, excitingly in love with a young cellist a third his age. Against the backdrop of an exquisite and knowing vision of Paris and the way it can uniquely shape a life, he forges a denouement that is staggering in its humanity, elegance, and truth.In the intoxicating beauty of its prose and emotional amplitude of its storytelling, Mark Helprin's Paris in the Present Tense is a soaring achievement, a deep, dizzying look at a life through the purifying lenses of art and memory.
Publisher: New York, NY :, Overlook Press,, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781468314762
Branch Call Number: FIC Helpr
Characteristics: 394 pages ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jul 06, 2019

Helprin writes sentences and , yes, paragraphs well....but, the loves of Jules and the story-line somehow seemed contrived.

BPLpicks Apr 08, 2019

This is a chapter in the life of Seventy-four-year-old Jules Lacour - cellist, widower, veteran of the war in Algeria, and child of the Holocaust. This book surprised me constantly. One chapter would be very touching and serious and the next chapter would be filled with the most entertaining and amusing banter between characters. It jumped from present to past. It was one type of novel and then it was something else entirely. It took me all over and I really enjoyed the ride.

Mar 27, 2019

Mark Helprin is a lovely and lyric and epic writer, this book is no exception.

That said, the lyricism is a BIT forced compared to some of his better work, including The Winters Tale. Still a very very enjoyable read, although the denouement doesn't feel properly weighted, so that's a shame. Still I really dug the time I was reading this.

Dec 02, 2018

Couldn't put this book down. Mark Helprin's writing is superb, the story is powerful, this is one of the best books on my list. Highly recommended.

Jan 17, 2018

Jules Lacour has lived a life fenced in by tragedy. As a child, both of his parents were shot in the street in front of his eyes during the last days of the German occupation. He was raised by genealogically and emotionally distant relatives. He served in the French army in Algeria. He enjoyed decades of marriage to a woman he loved with all his heart, only to lose her to a long illness. His career as a cellist and composer, while comfortable, has brought him neither recognition nor wealth. He has a daughter, with whom he has a good relationship, but who does not and will never understand him. His only grandson is slowly dying, in a France where their Jewish people are rapidly disappearing. Jules loves France, loves Paris, loves his family, loves his few remaining friends, loves music, loves his students. He is quick to love and loyal to what he loves - to what has gone before - loyal to death and beyond.

Helprin deftly manages shifting between genres including satire, crime drama, and romance. The setbacks and betrayals Jules continues to suffer throughout the novel are contrasted with his continual attention to - and devotion to - beauty, creating a portrait of a life and a world that are far from perfect and yet infinitely precious.

brookse0518 Jan 10, 2018

Excellent book! Romantic, historical, interesting: husband and I loved this title.

Nov 17, 2017

Helprin is a very good writer. Book is contemporary, published in 2017, and covers the life span of Jules Lacour, born in 1940 in Paris. Since his parents were Jewish, their presence in territory under the control of the Nazis the Lacour family lived in hiding. Very suspenseful.

Jules lived through it but his parents didn't. Jules carried the haunting memory of living in the attic the rest of his life. Very gripping story about what is going on on France today. Though a novel there is very little doubt about the author's historical accuracy.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at WPL

To Top