2015 · Book Reviews · Fiction · Grief · Historical · Romance · Travel · War

A Week In Paris, Rachel Hore

23211264Published: 2014 by Simon & Schuster | Pages: 480

The streets of Paris hide a dark past . . . 

September, 1937. Kitty Travers enrols at the Conservatoire on the banks of the Seine to pursue her dream of becoming a concert pianist. But then war breaks out and the city of light falls into shadow.

Nearly twenty-five years later, Fay Knox, a talented young violinist, visits Paris on tour with her orchestra. She barely knows the city, so why does it feel so familiar? Soon touches of memory become something stronger, and she realises her connection with these streets runs deeper than she ever expected.

As Fay traces the past, with only an address in an old rucksack to help her, she discovers dark secrets hidden years ago, secrets that cause her to question who she is and where she belongs . . . 

My mum picked up this book for me one day while she was browsing some bookshelves.  I couldn’t wait to get reading as anything linked to the beautiful Paris always makes for a good read in my mind! So on initial perusal, this book looks like your typical Parisian romance in war time, but on closer reading you realise the Hore pulls out some Freudian memory tactics to pull you into a darker world.

Our main characters’ Kitty and her daughter Fay on the face of it seem like a typical mother and daughter. Kitty frets at Fay’s initial trip to Paris during her school life, which is to be expected, but also continues to fret about Fay is general life, and especially when she revisits Paris. So Hore begins to build tension and suspense in the text right from the off. Kitty also seems to be referring to ‘something’ that happened in her past… Hore cleverly flits between present time, the 1960s where Fay is exploring Paris with her childhood friend (and crush!) Adam, and the past where Kitty meets American doctor Gene during the Nazi occupation of Paris. One could argue that ‘A Week in Paris’ not only uses a mirroring of lives between Fay and Kitty regarding their exploration of Paris, and romantic relationships during their visits, but also as a coming of age novel. Both Kitty and Fay have to deal with emotional ups and downs such as death, betrayal, first-time love and finding out hidden truths. Hore uses the art of ambiguity and suggestion throughout the novel therefore not only taking her characters’ on an in-depth, soul-searching journey but also her readers.

I found that as the novel progressed, I was drawn into Kitty and Gene’s love story – initially Gene appears aloof and a bit of a ‘user’ regarding Kitty, always making excuses for no shows and turning up late (a very similar story between Adam and Fay). We are made aware that Gene is ‘married to his work’ at the hospital yet is clearly head over heels in love with Kitty. I would argue that this relationship, and Fay’s relationship with Adam is used to create light and shade within the novel. Witnessing relationships bloom within novels is always a winner for me! These relationships act as ballasts against the horror of World War Two and the Nazi’s.

Hore’s use of wartime Paris creates a dangerous, tense mist over Kitty, Gene and baby Fay. We, as readers, are made to endure the Nazi occupation from a front row seat. Hore shows us the brutality of the Nazi’s in relation to Parisian residents – we see how Kitty appears in the dark about her husband’s true line of work and the marginalisation of the Jewish community. We, as readers, are given a different view point of the World War – one that is just as frightening. The readers learn the Kitty suffers at the hands of the Germans due to Fay’s honesty. This is all revealed through Nathalie’s story to Fay. (Nathalie knew Kitty, Gene and baby Fay).

This reveal through a secondary character not only highlights the trauma hidden deep in Fay’s subconscious – this is referred to when Fay visits Paris as a teenager and reacts to a bell and smashing glass in her latter trip – these all relate back to key traumatic experiences in her childhood. Her father’s death in church by a Nazi commander, separation from her mother – which in turn eventually causes Fay to have separation anxiety – this is clear through the guilt Fay feels towards leaving her mother in an hospital and visiting Paris again even though Kitty clearly stresses about it.

As Nathalie eventually unveils the whole truth to Fay, and Kitty tells of how she found Fay once more in an orphanage, the reader is hit with a wave of emotion. Disbelief that Fay had buried all of this so deep in her subconscious, relief for Kitty as she has finally been able to tell Fay the whole truth, and lastly sorrow. Sorrow for the horrors Kitty had to withstand, sorrow for the pain and guilt Kitty has felt all of these years, and the loss of Gene, her true love. Yes, Fay was denied the truth up until this point of her life, unknowingly having experienced it all anyway, but Kitty had to look at Fay everyday and know exactly what that child had been through.

Not only does Hore’s storytelling convey the impact of guilt and grief on Kitty – almost seeming to create a type of insanity within her – but also shows importance of truth and how denying a child the truth can lead to an unravelling of a life. A beautiful read that shows the strength of a mother’s love and the devastation World War Two had on Parisian life. Definitely a must-read for me!

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