Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Review: The Last Train to Paris by Michele Zackheim

1935.  Rose Manon, an American daughter of the mountains of Nevada, working as a journalist in New York, is awarded her dream job, foreign correspondent.  Posted to Paris, she is soon entangled in romance, an unsolved murder, and the desperation of a looming war.  Assigned to the Berlin desk, Manon is forced to grapple with her hidden identity as a Jew, the mistrust of her lover, and an unwelcome visitor on the eve of Kristallnacht.  And . . . on the day before World War II is declared, she must choose who will join her on the last train to Paris.
This is a carefully researched historical novel that reads like a suspense thriller.  Colette and Janet Flanner are only two of the well-known figures woven into the story. The parts they play will surprise readers. Last Train to Paris will enthrall the same audience that made In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson and Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky bestsellers.

Paperback, 320 pages

Expected publication: January 7th 2014 by Europa Editions

Terri's Review

I received this ARC from Europa Editions via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

I requested to read this story because I have an extreme interest in everything war related and as a result any novels written regarding wartime or with it as a backdrop.  I was not let down with this one. I found it a little different than much of the other novels that I have read giving yet another new perspective on WWII. 

Starting with Rose who was an American in Paris (and Berlin) in the years leading up to the declaration of war who also happened to be half Jewish.  She was an outsider living in the reality that was Europe in those days who was experiencing all of the events leading up to the war through the eyes of a journalist.  This gave the opportunity for the reader, like Rose, to see everything that was occurring to others while not directly being impacted (at first).  Although many novels that I have read have occurred in wartime France or Europe I have not read a whole lot that centered around the time leading up to it.  I found this a fresh take and interesting in my endless quest to fulfill my obsession with war and in particular WWII.

The character of Rose was also different than what one would normally expect in these types of novels.  As a journalist her life was that of a man's world living in the less than ideal accommodations that were frequented by journalists, drinking excessively at times and being hardened to her surroundings.  This was not your typical girl in a dress waiting for her true love to arrive.  This made her endearing however also made her naïve at times as she felt that she could solve all the problems that were brought to her and had to have her eyes opened by those who were living the nightmares of the time.

I really enjoyed this book.  Although there was a love story within the pages I felt that it was not the defining part of the book.  There was a lot of tragedy in this read and those who enjoy historical fiction during wartime for the epic/tragic love stories alone may not enjoy it as much.  Although this element is here, it is the tragic story of family, countries in ruin and the terrible things that humans do to others that is the focal point of this read.  I felt that a lot of research must have gone in to writing this.

I would recommend this book without hesitation

About the Michele Zachheim

(as found on Goodreads)

For many years I was a visual artist exhibiting in museum and galleries, both in the united States and Europe. Over time, random words began to appear on my canvases . . . then poems . . . then elaborate fragments of narratives. I began to think more about writing and less about the visual world. Finally, I simply wrote myself off the canvas and onto the lavender quadrille pages of a bright orange notebook. This, my first book, was Violette's Embrace, published by Riverhead/Penguin.

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