Review: “Paris Syndrome” by Tahir Shah

paris syndrome [From the publisher] On the morning of her fifth birthday, Miki Suzuki’s aged grandfather gave her an unusual gift – the fragment of a story. The tale told of a magical realm where all the women were beautiful, dressed in the finest gowns, and where the men had the looks of movie stars. The trees were covered in ivory-white blossom all year round, and everyone was joyful and proud. This place, young Miki learned, was a city in far off Europe – a city called Paris.

The story took seed in Miki’s mind and, over twenty years, she became quite obsessed with the French capital. Having studied its history, language, and traditions, she vowed that one day she would venture there.

Winning a competition at her work, where she sold low-grade beauty products door-to-door, Miki embarked on the journey of a lifetime to her dream destination.

Feverishly excited, and exhausted after a long flight, she hit the ground running, in her desperation to see every last tourist sight in town. But, as the others in the tour group looked on in horror, the telltale signs of a rare condition began to manifest themselves – a condition known as ‘Paris Syndrome’.

Made crazed by a stream of unfavourable events, Miki went on a riotous rampage, which ended in her mooning the sales clerk in Louis Vuitton – an assault that gripped the French nation. And so began the treatment in the most bizarre of clinics – a refuge for fellow sufferers of Paris Syndrome. All this set against a backdrop of vigilante groups, trade wars, bounty hunters, and true love.

Both hilarious and toe-cringing, Miki Suzuki’s psychological rollercoaster ride gets under the skin like nothing else, as the novel explores the real condition that afflicts dozens of Japanese tourists each year.O

I was lucky enough to be contacted by Mr. Shah’s agent about reviewing this book for him. I had previously read and reviewed his In Search of King Solomon’s Mines and loved it, so was happy to be able to read another of his books.

Before reading Paris Syndrome, I had never heard of the “condition.” However, a Parisian friend of mine was well-acquainted with it and told me all about it. Essentially it occurs when someone has idealized Paris in their minds, but when they finally visit the city, it is not what they imagined it to be. Because of this, the person may become temporarily mad and is only “cured” by leaving the city. It’s curious to me that the primary sufferers are Japanese people; I don’t know what in their culture would make this so, and would like to see a study sometime that looks into it.

The book was interesting in the way that it showed the progression of Miki’s Paris syndrome. She experiences one unfortunate after another and eventually becomes an international sensation for her crazy actions. Unfortunately, I think the book lacked the humor and voice of In Search of King Solomon’s Mines (and possibly other of Shah’s books). The book seemed a little disorganized, like maybe it was rushed and not as well thought-out as it might have been. An explanation could be that Shah is more accustomed to writing non-fiction than fiction. I’ll certainly be reading more of his non-fiction. Still, I enjoyed Paris Syndrome.

TL;DR: Enjoyable, though not as good as Shah’s In Search of King Solomon’s Mines.

Amazon | Goodreads

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