Thursday, April 12, 2012

book review: The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene

The backstory: The Last Time I Saw Paris was on this year's Indie Lit Awards shortlist.

The basics: Fleeing New York City and a husband she doesn't love, Claire calls in a favor to travel to Paris in 1940. When she arrives, she realizes how dire the situation is there, but she perseveres, even without proper documentation, and vows to survive the war in Paris.

My thoughts: I seem to be reacting more strongly to covers lately, and I love this one for the way it captures the story: it's Paris, it's passion, and its colors are enhanced, which represents that although this novel is historical fiction, it's been turned up a few notches toward fantasy. While The Last Time I Saw Paris is firmly grounded in its time and place, I still found myself suspending belief, and gladly, because I was so enjoying its journey. It's certainly not the historical fiction of Helen Dunmore. Yet Lynn Sheene's version is compelling, escapist and action-packed. It's also not for the faint of heart.

While Sheene doesn't shy away from some of this era's more brutal moments, particularly the ruthlessness of the Nazis, she certainly indulges quite a few fantasy-filled moments. I must confess: more than one scene made me blush while reading in public (I don't know how people read racy scenes on public transportation without their faces giving them away!) As Claire becomes more entrenched in her anti-Nazi work, I was transfixed by the rebel forces. While I never feared for Claire herself (within this novel, it seemed she was safe), I did fear for others. My heart raced. I felt the trepidation and danger. I could not put this book down.

I'm not a reader who seeks out romance or thrillers, yet this novel could be classified as both. It's also historical, and while I would stop short of calling it literary, it was immensely readable and enjoyable. I didn't write down any passages, but I was never distracted by the writing or dialogue either, which is no easy feat. It was a vehicle to tell a fast-paced story, and I gobbled it up.

The verdict: The Last Time I Saw Paris is an unexpectedly sexy spy caper that transported me to war-torn Paris with its vivid action, deep emotion and a fast-paced plot. If you're in the mood for a captivating, all-consuming, escapist read, then this novel is perfect, as long as you're willing to suspend belief just enough to invest yourself in this delightful story.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 370 pages
Publication date:  May 3, 2011
Source: publisher


Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Last Time I Saw Paris from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

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17 comments:

  1. This book doesn't appeal to me at all, I think the market is a bit oversaturated with WW2 book at the moment.

    And I'm thinking of trying Helen Dunmore - should I start with A Spell Of Winter or The Siege?

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    1. Having read three of her novels, including A Spell of Winter and The Siege, I would start with The Siege. It was the first one I read, and it's excellent, gripping historical fiction.

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    2. Thanks, I will start with The Siege :)

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  2. I feel like I've reacted to covers a lot lately too. This sounds really good.. and I'm sure no one actually realized what type of scene you were reading, LOL. =)

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    1. Jenny--I'm still surprised how much I liked it. And it's probably not a title I would have picked up on my own!

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  3. I also love the cover, and think that a book that makes me slightly blush is just what the doctor ordered! It sounds like this was a compelling read for a lot of reasons, and I don't mind suspending my sense of disbelief when the story is well rendered. Fantastic review today. I need to see if I can get this one on audio!

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    1. Zibilee--I think this one would be excellent on audio, even though I don't usually listen to audios. Enjoy!

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  4. I was sold from the beginning of your review, but "the verdict" clinched it for me!

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    1. Anna--I'll look forward to your thoughts!

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  5. Oh, a sexy spy caper sounds sort of good!! I love the cover too. It really fits.

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    1. Ti--I never knew I enjoyed this genre as much in print as I do on film, but it was so fun!

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  6. That's a striking cover to my eye as well. And I am the same way, blushing on the subway, wondering if everyone else on the car has seen what I'm reading and has been waiting for me to get to just that page. Heheh. Naw, it just feels like that, I know! But I'd rather discover it when I'm reading quietly somewhere at home, or, else on my own...so I can re-read as I wish, if so inspired! I love the feeling you've described here, too, being unexpectedly swept into a story: nuthin' better!

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    1. It's more common to find me wincing at something sad or cruel than blushing, but I'm sure I make far more faces than I realize on the bus!

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  7. I'm read this book soon and I think this book sounds like one I will enjoy! I think I can suspend some belief for a bit.

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    1. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it!

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  8. I know what you mean about reading racy scenes in public! There was one time, back when I still taught preschool, when I was reading something (can't remember what, unfortunately) while they were napping, and I got to one such scene, and I actually looked up to make sure they were still sleeping! I remember thinking, "Oh, wow, this is SO not appropriate for a preschool classroom!"

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    1. Isn't it funny? It's a good reminder of how private and public reading can be!

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!