Time traveling, basements, and other news

Alysa Salzberg
4 min readFeb 28, 2023


La Joute des mariniers by Nicolas Raguenet (image source)

Researching the past isn’t easy — and I’m learning that certain time periods are even more difficult to visualize and understand than I might have expected.

What I hope will be my next novel is taking me to a different time in Paris’s history, and I’m trying to get down to the depths of it, to be able to see and hear and smell it (even though it apparently smelled pretty gross) — as much as someone who didn’t actually live then, can.

One thing I can be sure of: The traditional shape of a brioche hasn’t changed in centuries, as this 18th century painting by Chardin attests!

Detail from La Brioche by Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin (image source)

This need to do some serious time traveling to a different era means that I’ll be taking a break for a few months from posting on this blog.

I will always be fascinated by the Siege of Paris, and I continue to read firsthand accounts for fun. For instance, my most recent read, finished last month, was Paris dans les caves, épisode du siège 1870–71 (Paris in the Basements, an Episode of the 1870–1871 Siege) by Francisque de Biotière, illustrated by Boulay. It’s an account of living in basements during the bombardment of Paris in late December 1870 through January 1871, an event that mostly affected Parisians living on the Left Bank. You can read the book (and look at its illustrations) online for free, here.

An engraving from the book, by Boulay, showing how neighbors divided up the space in the large basement below their apartment building. (Image source)

Paris dans les caves isn’t my favorite resource — it’s a bit too jokey and slightly condescending to women (in a gentlemanly way…? Although this might just be my 21st century self thinking), but it’s a good introduction to the situation and definitely taught me some things I didn’t know about everyday life during the bombardment, including just how much time people spent in the basements.

Plus — bonus — it contains the first contemporary illustration I’ve ever seen of the notoriously terrible Siege bread in loaf form! Today, bread souvenirs from this time are always just a small slice or piece of it, so this was an exciting thing to see for a Siege breadhead* like me.

*This term does not exist — but how else to express how much I’m obsessed by Siege of Paris bread souvenirs?

Today, pain de seigle means “rye bread” in French, but during the Siege, that was just an optimistic moniker, since Siege bread usually contained things like crushed vegetables and straw. (Image source)

There’s so much more about this book — as well as other interesting things about the Siege — that I’d like to share, but for a little while I have to delve into another era. So if you notice that I’ve gone silent for a while here, it’s because I’ve gone time traveling, not that I’ve abandoned the blog.

Some other news, before I go: For those who’ve got Hearts at Dawn on their TBR list or were thinking of gifting it to someone, the price of the Kindle version is now $1.99 (1.89 euros).

I hope you all are doing well and that the next few months will be good ones for you. And now I’m off to another era for a while….


A Beauty and the Beast retelling set during the 1870–1871 Siege of Paris, Hearts at Dawn has been selected as a Historical Novel Society Editors’ Choice book. It’s currently available in Kindle and paperback formats and is part of the Kindle Unlimited Library. I hope you’ll give it a read!

If you’re a fan of print books, my friend Rip Coleman, founder of Bohannon Hall Press, recently surprised me by reformatting the print edition of Hearts at Dawn. I can’t thank him enough.

I love the improved font, layout, & chapter headings, and hope you will, too!

Whatever the format, if you do pick up Hearts at Dawn, I’d be forever grateful if you left an honest review on Amazon and any other sites or social media platforms where you post. Reviews help books gain more visibility and credibility. Even a review of a short few lines can be incredibly helpful.

I’ll be back again soon with more interesting and strange things to share about life during the Siege of Paris. Feel free to subscribe to this blog or follow me on Goodreads or Amazon to find out when I publish new posts.

Until next time!



Alysa Salzberg

A writer & worrier. She recently published her first novel, “Hearts at Dawn”, a Beauty & the Beast retelling set during the 1870 Siege of Paris.