Rachel Hore has produced another complex and historically accurate tale set in the iconic capital city of France where just the mention of the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile gives the readers a visual hook for the rest of this turbulent tale of a young woman facing seemingly insurmountable situations purely by virtue of the time and place she is living in.
Fay is an accomplished violinist who first travels to Paris during her teens and despite her mother, Kitty’s reservations, she relents and lets her daughter go. While there Fay has a frightening incidence of deja vue which disturbs her because she knows she has never visited France before.
Years later her mother’s sadness over the death of Fay’s father at times appear to overwhelm her and this is only compounded now that Fay has left home and is on the verge of travelling to Paris once again, this time as a second violinist in an orchestra for a week long event. With her early life shrouded in mystery Fay is shocked when she is given the task of visiting the convent where her mother had stayed when she was a pupil at the conservatoire in Paris and she seizes the opportunity to find out more about her mother and her own childhood.
With most of the story set in Paris, in 1961 and earlier during World War II Rachel Hore has written an intertwined tale, Fay’s ‘present’ is narrated by herself as she begins to trace her mother’s footsteps while Kitty’s story is told mainly through the eyes of an old friend Nathalie which brings to life the reality of living in Paris during the troubled years of the war years.
I really enjoyed Kitty’s story, it was easy to lose myself in this part of the story and believe the events as they were described my only criticism was that this central story didn’t start until quite a way through the book but once it began I almost resented returning to Fay’s present day story. In addition to the fascinating story of Kitty’s life there is an element of romance told in keeping with the time period the women live in. The theme of friendship is strong in Kitty’s story with the need to know who could be trusted imperative when living under the rule of the Germans but for friendship is on the periphery of her story as she begins to uncover the truth about her early life which is very different to the story she has been told by her mother, it is up to the reader to judge if this was the right decision to make.
I love historical fiction particularly those stories where the past has an impact on later generations but only when they are researched and written in a believable way; Rachel Hore achieves this and at the same time bought to life a time and place that is far removed from my own. I admired the young Kitty and by the end of the book understood why when we first meet her she is in hospital following a ‘nervous breakdown.’ Fay was a more elusive character and as is often the case in these dual time-line stories, had the lesser storyline although the story in the past became her story too. I would recommend this book to lovers of well-written historical fiction.
I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Simon & Schuster UK for allowing me to read this book in return for my honest review. A Week in Paris will be published on 9 October 2014 perfectly timed for reading while wrapped up in the warm as the nights draw in.
Over the years I have read and enjoyed each one Rachel Hore’s previous books and if you look closely at the header of this blog you will see some of the copies sat upon my bookshelf – my favourite is The Glass Painters Daughter, a book that I still remember in detail despite last reading it quite a few years ago.
Previous books by Rachel Hore
The Dream House
Kate stumbles upon the house of her dreams, a beautiful place, full of memories, it is tantalizingly out of her reach. Its owner is the frail elderly Agnes, whose story – as it unravels – echoes so much of Kate’s own. And Kate comes to realize how uncertain and unsettling even a life built on dreams can be – wherever you are, at whatever time you are living and whoever you are with.
The Memory Garden
When Patrick finds some old paintings in an attic,he and Mel investigate the identity of the artist, they are drawn into an extraordinary tale of illicit passion and thwarted ambition from a century ago, a tale that resonates in their own lives. But how long can Mel’s idyll last before reality breaks in and everything is threatened?
The Glass Painter’s Daughter
Zac accept a beguiling commission – to restore a shattered glass picture of an exquisite angel belonging to a local church. As they reassemble the dazzling shards of coloured glass, they uncover an extraordinary love story from the Victorian past, sparked by the window’s creation. Slowly, Fran begins to see her own reflection in its themes of passion, tragedy and redemption. Fran’s journey will lead her on a search for the truth about her mother, through mysteries of past times and the anguish of unrequited love, to reconciliation and renewal.
A Place of Secrets
As Jude untangles Wickham’s tragic story, she discovers threatening links to the present. What have Summer’s nightmares to do with Starbrough folly, the eerie crumbling tower in the forest from which Wickham and his adopted daughter Esther once viewed the night sky? With the help of Euan, a local naturalist, Jude searches for answers in the wild, haunting splendour of the Norfolk woods. Dare she leave behind the sadness in her own life, and learn to love again?
A Gathering Storm
Beatrice’s story is a powerful tale of courage and betrayal, spanning from Cornwall to London, and Occupied France, in which friendship and love are tested, and the ramifications reach down the generations.
And, as Lucy listens to the tales of the past, she learns a secret that will change everything she has ever known…
The Silent Tide
When Emily Gordon, editor at a London publishing house, commissions an account of great English novelist Hugh Morton, she finds herself steering a tricky path between Morton’s formidable widow, Jacqueline, who’s determined to protect his secrets, and the biographer, charming and ambitious Joel Richards. But someone is sending Emily mysterious missives about Hugh Morton’s past and she discovers a buried story that simply has to be told…