Never fear, there are no spoilers here!
One letter. All it takes is one letter to shock Charlotte Floret from her life in 1955 New York and send her careening back to occupied Paris. As the story goes between her postwar New York life and her life living under occupation, Charlotte remembers who she was and must face her past.
Paris Never Leaves You captivated my mind and heart from the very first page. The writing is clear and concise, with the perfect balance of imagery and action. The dual timeline is exquisitely executed, as each is equally intriguing. There are heart-pounding scenes made even more suspenseful by delicate foreshadowing, unexpected plot twists, and high stakes.
The setting of this novel is magnetic. 1950s New York is an interesting place to explore, and occupied Paris is bone-chillingly terrifying. The juxtaposition of normal life a mere ten years later with the brutal hatred and bloodlust is intense at times, but well placed with a resonating reason for its existence. The reader is offered a rare dual perspective as Charlotte sees the carefree Paris of her youth beneath the heartbreaking war-torn reality of the 1940s.
Although the subject matter is heavy and the stakes impossibly high, the intense plot is metered with humor and small moments of joy. Charlotte’s job in a Parisian bookstore offers respite from the ravaged streets of Paris, while a comedian of a hardware store owner brings levity to the 1950s scenes. The dialogue throughout is fantastic, with realistic conversations alongside witty banter.
The real heart of this novel is the characters. They are masterfully and beautifully crafted. From the major roles to the unnamed side characters, each is fully developed and stands on their own. The primary characters are flawed, but relatable. The characters are complex and intricately woven, as are their relationships with one another.
Aspects of this book remind me of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale (in the best way!). This novel would make an excellent book club pick, as the characters and their actions invite ample discussion.
While I shy away from divulging themes when discussing books, as they often hint at plot details and result in unintended spoilers, there is one theme I want to share. However, if you want a completely spoiler free review as I promised, this paragraph is hidden at the bottom of the post. If you’re curious about the theme I couldn’t resist sharing my admiration for, scroll on down. Otherwise, stop at the bold print and you’ll be safe.
I’m grateful to St. Martin’s Press and Booked Up All Night for the advanced reader’s edition of Paris Never Leaves You that I won in a sweepstakes. Books are the best, and this one was spectacular. Thank you.
Ellen Feldman’s Paris Never Leaves You is out June 2, 2020.
Here’s the hidden paragraph: One aspect I absolutely loved about this book and can’t help but mention is the humanization. So often we demonize our enemies, and war is ripe for that (and for good reason). Yet it is the small stories of seeing someone as a person, a human, a flawed creation, that reminds us of our own humanity.