Gillian Tindall’s very enjoyable new book traces the associations of various members of her family with the old Latin Quarter of Paris. The story begins with her great-great-grandfather, Arthur Jacob, an Edinburgh-educated surgeon from Dublin, who walked from Scotland to Paris in 1814 – the year of Napoleon’s defeat and exile to Elba – and ends with herself, though she eschews the first person and writes of ‘Julia’ as a character to be observed and commented on. There is a medical theme to the book, for her grandfather, Bertie Tindall (who married Blanche Jacob, Arthur’s granddaughter), became a publisher specialising in medical books and had a long connection with a Parisian firm. The medical theme explains the emphasis on these ‘few streets’, for the teaching hospitals of Paris were located on the Left Bank.
Footprints in Paris is therefore part family history, part social and urban history. But its hybrid nature is part of its fascination. The tone is inquiring, expository and affectionate. Tindall dwells on the problem of the past: how little we know about the lives and characters of our