Wednesday 2 September 2020

Paris Never Leaves You

Finished September 2
Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

This novel takes place in 1954, with flashbacks to World War Two in Paris. The main character, Charlotte lived in Paris and was working in a bookstore during the war. Her husband Laurent was killed while fighting and she was raising her young daughter Vivienne on her own. The owner of the bookstore was in a German camp, and Charlotte and her friend Simone ran the store. Charlotte tried to be careful in the actions she took, aware of the need to protect her young daughter, but Simone sometimes took risks, such as setting the clock in the store to Paris time rather than the German time they were supposed to be using. When a German officer begins coming to the bookstore, Charlotte is even more careful, but a couple of situations have her developing a complicated relationship with the young man, Julian Bauer.
In the present, Charlotte has been sponsored by a colleague of her father's, Horace Field, to come to New York and is working as an editor for his publishing company. She is good at her job, and Vivi is growing up to be a loving and thoughtful young woman. Horace and his wife Hannah have not only sponsored them, but given them an apartment in their own home. Hannah is a therapist and has tried to talk to Charlotte about her experiences, but Charlotte keeps her past to herself, not wanting it to follow her into her new life. Horace was injured in the war and is now confined to a wheelchair, but he is still an extremely capable and observant man, and he feels that he and Charlotte have more between them due to their war experiences.
They both have their secrets, but Charlotte is now getting letters from someone in her past, and Hannah seems to be encouraging Vivi to dig into this part of her life as well, causing disputes between Charlotte and her now-teen daughter.
I liked how this book dealt with a character who lived through the Occupation of Paris but wasn't involved in the Resistance, who was just trying to stay alive. The focus on the stresses on ordinary people was one not often seen in fiction of this time period. There is also some guilt that Charlotte carries from this time that has some complexity to it, and that she needs to deal with to be able to truly move forward with her life.
Definitely recommend this one.

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