Happy Publication Day to «The Paris Hours» by Alex George!
In this new historical fiction, Alex George showed us the wondrous City of Love, Lights and Art, and four amazing stories that unwrap in a single day in Paris. If I’d need to describe this book in one word, the first one that comes to mind is “dreamy”. And while the story itself does not contain any sliver of magic, I was constantly in a dream-like state whenever I picked it up.
One day in the City of Lights. One night in search of lost time.
Paris between the wars teems with artists, writers, and musicians, a glittering crucible of genius. But amidst the dazzling creativity of the city’s most famous citizens, four regular people are each searching for something they’ve lost.
Camille was the maid of Marcel Proust, and she has a secret: when she was asked to burn her employer’s notebooks, she saved one for herself. Now she is desperate to find it before her betrayal is revealed. Souren, an Armenian refugee, performs puppet shows for children that are nothing like the fairy tales they expect. Lovesick artist Guillaume is down on his luck and running from a debt he cannot repay—but when Gertrude Stein walks into his studio, he wonders if this is the day everything could change. And Jean-Paul is a journalist who tells other people’s stories, because his own is too painful to tell. When the quartet’s paths finally cross in an unforgettable climax, each discovers if they will find what they are looking for.
Told over the course of a single day in 1927, The Paris Hours takes four ordinary people whose stories, told together, are as extraordinary as the glorious city they inhabit.
Thank you, Flatiron Books for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way.
I finally realized why I love shorter books so much. It’s not just the fact that you can read them quicker, it’s about how precise authors have to be with their stories – they can’t get carried away, every single scene, every single act has to mean something and has to lead the the grand finale. Alex George crafted the story of four different characters, showing us their present and telling about the past, in just two hundred and seventy pages. Each story was carefully crafted, each character had different things to offer, and the setting made me fall in love with Paris all over again.
WHAT I LIKED:
1 – It’s reading books like this that reminds me just how much I love historical fiction and that I should read this genre more often. There is something compelling to read about our past. Even though the characters and their stories are fiction, I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar actually happened, someone similar to our main characters actually lived and went through the difficulties described in the book. For me, that’s the best part of every historical fiction novel.
2 – Reading this book felt like unraveling of different yarns mixed together, tugging on one thread made the other move. In «The Paris Hours», we follow four completely different characters – a maid, an Armenian refugee, an artist, and a journalist, all of them had come from a completely different background, had different dreams and ambitions, but Paris united them all. In a craftily made plot, Alex George brought them together with thin connections and little hints he left here and there.
3 – If you’d ask me what genre this book falls into, I wouldn’t be able to give you one answer. On one hand, it’s historical fiction, on the other hand, it’s also a character study, and a mystery, with a big accent on Paris as the main stage.
In addition to the four main fictional characters, Camille – the maid of Marcel Proust; Souren – an Armenian refugee and a puppeteer; Guillaume – an artist; and Jean-Paul – journalist and a writer, other more well-known personas made their way into the story as well – we also follow closely Marcel Proust through Camille’s eyes, and Ernest Hemingway as his path crosses with Camille and also Jean-Paul.
It was very refreshing to see such famous people thrown into the mists of a fictional story, which made it even more believable and exciting to read.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:
1 – Either I wasn’t in the mood for historical fiction or the book had a very slow start. The second part of «The Paris Hours» was superb! I flew through it in a couple of hours. But I felt like it took me a while to get into the story, mostly because of constantly changing POVs. As soon as I got attached to Souren, or Camille, or Jean-Paul, their chapter would end and the next one starts. Jean-Paul’s was definitely my favorite one out of all 4, and I wanted his story to have a good ending.
It was very difficult to rate this book because of how I had to push myself through the first half. I even considered DNFing it at some point but decided to keep reading and I’ve made the right decision! So because of the slow start (or my mood when I picked it up), I’ll have to give it a bit lower rating, even though overall it was an excellent historical fiction.
What is your favorite historical fiction book? And if you don’t read historical fiction, I’d love to know why! Let’s chat in the comments below!