PARIS — The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs — By Elaine Sciolino


Take a leisurely, yet immersive stroll down one of Paris' most charming, vibrant and diverse streets — Rue des Martyrs — without the jet lag.

The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs, is 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.

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 Sciolino 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. On Rue Des Martyrs, 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, Emile Zola situated a lesbian dinner club in his novel Nana, and Franðcois Truffaut filmed scenes from The 400 Blows.

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 for more than half a century at No. 80; and Laurence Gillery, the woman who restores antique barometers, the last of her kind.

You also will meet the Tunisian greengrocer, the husband-and-wife cheesemongers and the owner of a hundred-year-old bookstore, The atmosphere on rue des Martyrs is refreshing and enticing in our modern world.

A delightful and beguiling look at life on a small Paris street, The Only Street in Paris: Life of the Rue Des Martyrs will make readers hungry for The City of Light, for cheese and wine, and for the kind of street life that is all too quickly disappearing.


“Buying the book is a way of showing solidarity with the people of Paris… [It] celebrates daily life in Paris.”
— EarlyWord

“Sciolino… uses her favorite street to convey a larger truth — that in one of the biggest and most iconic cities in the world, it’s still possible to find warmth and intimacy in the smaller venues of local neighborhoods… As Paris endures the aftermath of yet another terrorist assault, “The Only Street in Paris” bears testimony to the city’s resilience. “Not all has been lost on the rue des Martyrs,” Sciolino writes hopefully, “not yet.””
— The Advocate

“Elaine Sciolino…uses a deep knowledge of French history, a journalist's curiosity, and a playful sense of humor to examine life on one Paris street. The result is a literary tour de force—insightful, profound, brilliant.”
— Gérard Araud, French ambassador to the United States

“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…. Readers familiar with Sciolino’s dispatches to the New York Times will value her deft reporting and witty prose.”
— Mark Knoblauch, Booklist

“Elaine takes us on a walk down one of the most charming streets in Paris.  I learned fascinating facts through her lively, engaging prose. A must-read for Paris lovers.”
— Clotilde Dusoulier, author of The French Market Cookbook and Edible French

“Under Elaine Sciolino’s lyrical and humane gaze, a single Parisian street yields its secrets…. Sciolino draws us into her world with a novelist’s finely paced prose and detailed psychological portraits.”
— Rhonda Garelick, author of Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History

“A sublime stroll… From Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” to A.J. Liebling’s “Between Meals” to Janet Flanner’s “Paris Was Yesterday,” accounts of France’s most famous metropolis tend toward the elegiac. So it is with “The Only Street in Paris”… The pleasures here are small ones… The magic of the street is not only its scope—it’s about half a mile—but also its history.”
— The Wall Street Journal

“Intricately detailed, fastidiously researched, Elaine Sciolino has written a love poem to a spectacular, singular street in Paris…. There are delights and discoveries on every page. A jewel of a book!”
Patricia Wells, author of At Home with Patricia Wells


  • Author: Elaine Sciolino
  • Condition: New Paperback
  • Published: November 1, 2016
  • Publisher: W W Norton & Co. Inc.
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393353402
  • Pages: 294
  • Dimensions: 8.5" inches H X 0.75" inches D x 5.50" inches W
  • Rating:★★★★1/2 (See FAQs)


Elaine Sciolino The Only Street in Paris Rue des MartyrsElaine Sciolino is a writer for the New York Times and a former New York Times Paris bureau chief, based in France since 2002. She also is the author of La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of LifePersian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran, and The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein’s Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis.

In 2010, she was decorated as a chevalier of the Legion of Honor for her "special contribution" to the friendship between France and the United States. She has worked for Newsweek in New York, Chicago, Paris, and Rome. She held a number of posts at the New York Times, including United Nations' bureau chief, Central Intelligence Agency correspondent, and chief diplomatic correspondent.


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