Thursday, June 29, 2017

Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Heather Webb & Hazel Gaynor

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Edelweiss
Read: May 26, 2017

New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War. August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris. But as history tells us, it all happened so differently... Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene? Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him...

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English soldiers in France during WWI.
I caught wind of Last Christmas in Paris in March 2017 when the cover started circling social media. I’d read and enjoyed both Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor, but it was the subject matter that caught my attention. I’m a junkie when it comes to war era literature and couldn’t wait to get a copy of my own.

The story itself is relayed through the correspondence of the novel’s cast and while I know the format doesn’t appeal to everyone, I couldn’t help appreciating the sense of intimacy and depth created by the approach. I felt connected the characters and that made it easy to empathize with their views and experiences.

In many ways, the narrative reminded me of Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth. Webb and Gaynor clearly meant to echo Brittain’s unique perspective and much like the famed memoirist, I feel they succeeded in capturing both the romanticism and realities of the conflict while illustrating its impact on the men and women who came of age in its shadow.

Sweetly romantic and beautifully composed, Last Christmas in Paris proved compelling and heartfelt. A brilliant tribute to the tragedy of war and the endurance of the human heart.

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Now that I have finally found the courage to write these words, I do not know if I have the courage to post them to you.
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