REVIEW: ALL THE FLOWERS IN PARIS, BY SARAH JIO

 

When Caroline wakes up in a Paris hospital with no memory of her past, she’s confused to learn that for years she’s lived a sad, reclusive life in a sprawling apartment on the rue Cler. Slowly regaining vague memories of a man and a young child, she vows to piece her life back together—though she can’t help but feel she may be in danger. A budding friendship with the chef of a charming nearby restaurant takes her mind off her foggy past, as does a startling mystery from decades prior.

In Nazi-occupied Paris, a young widow named Céline is trying to build a new life for her daughter while working in her father’s flower shop and hoping to find love again. Then a ruthless German officer discovers her Jewish ancestry and Céline is forced to play a dangerous game to secure the safety of her loved ones. When her worst fears come true, she must fight back in order to save the person she loves most: her daughter.

When Caroline discovers Céline’s letters tucked away in a closet, she realizes that her apartment harbors dark secrets—and that she may have more in common with Céline than she could have ever imagined.

 

My Thoughts: Our first-person narrators, Caroline and Celine, alternately tell the story in All the Flowers in Paris.

Caroline’s story takes place in Paris in 2009, while Celine’s voice comes to us from the same city in 1943.

The women are somehow connected to one another, in that they lived in the same apartment, but decades apart, and some mysterious events further link them.

Celine’s story reminds us of the time in which she lived, WWII, and the German occupation of Paris that brought danger every day.

Caroline’s tale begins with a horrific accident that leaves her with amnesia, presenting another kind of danger.

I loved turning the pages to find out what would happen next for the women, and what answers might give them peace and safety. Unexpected events were always just on the horizon, so I couldn’t stop reading. In the end, as the story came together with serendipitous results, I felt the kind of closure we all want in a book. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: PARIS RUNAWAY, BY PAULITA KINCER

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In St. Petersburg, Florida, it is summer break for Sadie Ford, a divorced mom and teacher, but before she can even plan her days ahead, her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has turned her world upside down.

Thinking that Scarlett is at her dad’s house, Sadie is stunned to discover, from one of her daughter’s friends, that Scarlett has taken off for Paris to “lose her virginity” to Luc Rollande, the exchange student she’d had eyes for the previous year.

Sadie isn’t really the impulsive type, but suddenly she finds herself packing a large purse with essentials and a couple of changes of clothes, booking a plane ticket, and heading across the ocean herself.

Meanwhile, her older daughter, Evangeline, is safely ensconced at Tulane University.

As we follow Sadie in her pursuit of her daughter, we learn more about her before the divorce, what life looked like for her when her children were small and controllable, and how this new beginning she is stuck with is suddenly very frightening. In the early hours following her landing in Paris, we see Sadie struggle to navigate the arrondissements, and find her way into the apartment building where Luc lives.

Eventually she connects with Luc’s father Auguste, whose own apartment is down the street from his ex-wife Corinne’s, and despite the slight language barrier, they manage to talk about how to find their missing children. By now, both Sadie and Auguste realize that something more is going on with the teenagers, and between the two of them, they might just be able to bring them home safely.

I liked how, from Sadie’s first person narrative, we see her impressions of Paris, when she isn’t worrying endlessly. How she describes her reactions to the people she meets, like Corinne and her new husband Georges, and how their constant speaking in French around her, even though they knew English, made her feel excluded.

Paris Runaway, an intensely engaging novel, kept me rapidly turning pages, losing sleep, and eagerly trying to figure out what would happen in the end. Would Sadie and Auguste find the kids and extricate them from disaster? What would happen with the developing connection between them afterwards? I definitely wanted to know, so I very happily kept reading…and now I’m awarding 5 stars to this novel.

AN EVOCATIVE TALE OF AMBITION & BETRAYAL — A REVIEW

They stood poised at the beginning of his promising writing career, forming a circle of friendships that included a group of expatriates living a Bohemian life in Paris; among them were such notables as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and many others.

Ernest Hemingway had met and married Hadley Richardson in Chicago, a woman a few years his senior. He had already launched his writing life, and to finance his writer’s journey, Hemingway worked as a journalist for a time. His burgeoning writing career seemed to exist hand in glove with a hard-drinking and fast-living café life that did not celebrate traditional notions of family and monogamy. In these years, Hadley struggled with jealousy and self-doubt; ultimately, something major would smash their dreams of a lasting love.

A sometimes volatile relationship can still have, at its basis, a deeply abiding friendship, which overrides any great romance or grand passion, although they apparently had their share of those moments.

McLain has created a fictionalized version of factual events, digging deeper beneath the emotional layers of what other writers have chronicled about this first marriage of Ernest Hemingway. He would go on to marry four times in all, and his tragic demise was like the epilogue to a brilliant but captivating journey.

How Hemingway created his novels was also a fascinating exploration into the writer’s life. During his first marriage, he created and published The Sun Also Rises.

Throughout The Paris Wife: A Novel, I found myself wishing that events might turn out differently, that there might be a happy ending after all. What I found most satisfying throughout this story, however, were the playful and loving connections created at a tumultuous phase in the lives of these two, and how these connections would sustain them through some difficult times: bonds that would link them even after the marriage had ended. In a letter to Hadley, Ernest wrote of his admiration for her, and how she was the “best and truest and loveliest person I have ever known.”

Themes of loss, childhood trauma, and poor parental connections formed the foundation for what would unfold for these two, and for Hemingway himself in the years that followed. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this fascinating writer in the early years, with his “first love.” Five stars.