Review: Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

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☆☆➹⁀☆4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆

About the Book:

Living through WWII working in a Paris bookstore with her young daughter, Vivi, and fighting for her life, Charlotte is no victim, she is a survivor. But can she survive the next chapter of her life?

Alternating between wartime Paris and 1950s New York publishing, Paris Never Leaves You is an extraordinary story of resilience, love, and impossible choices, exploring how survival never comes without a cost.

The war is over, but the past is never past.

Bookbub | Goodreads


My Thoughts:

Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman is one of those books that you feverishly devour, and yet the big reveal leaves you with a “huh, I didn’t see that one coming” feeling. Not a mystery, but there is a skeleton in the closet, and those rattling bones kept me engaged and wondering.

Charlotte and daughter, Vivi, survive the Occupation of France and the Holocaust. They land in America after the war due to a sponsorship from a family friend. I was intrigued by Charlotte’s efforts to protect Vivi and ensure her survival through the occupation. The picture of life in Paris during the occupation is stark and scary. I could feel the weight of the daily dread, and I could hear the hunger in the bellies of every Parisienne. Equally engaging was Charlotte’s closed-off life in America working for a publishing house owned by her sponsor. A ghost from her past visits in the form of a letter, and that letter starts Charlotte thinking of the past and hallucinating in the present.

This book gives a very different perspective of the war and especially of life after the war. I found that I felt equally repulsed by the characters’ choices and compassionate toward their motives. There are strong messages of survivors’ guilt, and the long-term effects of war. The dual timeline of the story allows Charlotte to slowly divulge her experiences during the occupation as well as her struggle raising a daughter on her own. Her sponsor and his wife have become employer, landlord, and daycare providers, and yet there is tension.

A unique story that left me with strong feelings that keep jumping to the forefront of my mind. I loved the unique perspective and the very different twist on a WWII story.


About the Author: Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Scottsboro, The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, and Lucy. She writes both fiction and social history, and has published articles on the history of divorce, plastic surgery, Halloween, the Normandie, and many other topics, as well as numerous book reviews. She has also lectured extensively around the country and in Germany and England, and is a sought-after speaker to reading groups both in person and by telephone.
She grew up in northern New Jersey and attended Bryn Mawr College, from which she holds a B.A. and an M.A. in modern history. After further graduate studies in history at Columbia University, she worked for a New York publishing house.
She lives in New York City and East Hampton, New York, with her husband and Cairn terrier named Lucy.


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