Mort Rosenblum, a celebrated foreign correspondent, invites us aboard his fifty-four-foot launch tied up in the center of Paris and introduces us to the characters who share his life along the river, ranging from eccentric movie stars and reclusive novelists to barge families just scraping by. He then hauls in the bow line for an unforgettable tour of the river itself from its source to its mouth. The Secret Life of the Seine is a love story between man and boat and the river that they live on, a discourse on the sensual beauty of France and the art of living well. In the tradition of A Year in Provence, Under the Tuscan Sun, and Paris to the Moon, here is what Garry Trudeau called "a moveable feast [with] a top speed of five knots—fast enough for fun, languid enough for dreaming. Take a trip you'll never take: This is what books are for."
When Rosenblum, a correspondent for the Associated Press and former editor-in-chief of the International Herald Tribune , lost his idyllic apartment on Paris's Ile Saint-Louis, he and his companion set up housekeeping on a 54-foot launch on the Seine. Inspired by the ``magical Seinescape'' and by the diverse, raffish population of its boating community, he mastered the intricacies of navigation so that he could explore the length of the river. Snaking through its canals, surmounting its shallows and locks, Rosenblum followed the Seine from source to mouth, stopping at villages, picnicking on the banks, delving into local history and chatting with barge owners. Once a heavily trafficked freight route, the Seine now barely supports the many barge families struggling to earn a living on it and its waters are polluted (though daring swimmers still find the river irresistible). Its history is rich: entranced by the light, Renoir and Sisley set up their easels along the Seine; Monet designed his water garden; Victor Hugo and Flaubert wrote; and Gertrude Stein ran her dogs. ``As for me,'' notes Rosenblum, ``I was hooked.'' And although, as he adds, ``a hundred generations of poets and painters have tried to capture the shifting spirit of the Seine, and no one has managed yet,'' his own affectionate tribute comes close.