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
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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