The Paris Daughter by Kristin Harmel: extensive research, rich period detail and psychological acumen – book review –

The Paris Daughter by Kristin HarmelThe Paris Daughter by Kristin Harmel
The Paris Daughter by Kristin Harmel
The family lives of two American women – who form a close friendship in pre-war Paris after they both give birth to baby girls – are cruelly torn apart forever when the Nazis march into the city in the summer of 1940.

In a relationship ‘cemented by war,’ they had always pledged to be ‘each other’s family’ but a danger greater than they could ever have imagined is lurking on the horizon and no one is safe.

Kristin Harmel is the bestselling American author of over a dozen novels, including The Book of Lost Names and The Winemaker's Wife, and her wartime stories of love and loss have brought her an army of fans.

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And there won’t be a dry eye in the house when readers turn the pages of this heart-wrenching and gripping tale of two mothers who must make unthinkable choices in the face of the Nazi occupation.

Moving from wartime Paris to 1960s New York, The Paris Daughter is Harmel’s most powerful novel yet… a story about mothers and daughters, the way loss can transform, and the hard road to starting again in the face of impossible odds.

In September of 1939, two pregnant young American women, Elise LeClair and Juliette Foulon, become close friends on the day they meet in the beautiful Bois de Boulogne in Paris.

Although the shadow of war is creeping across Europe, neither sculptress Elise, who is married to celebrated French artist Olivier LeClair, and Juliette, whose husband Paul Foulon owns the quaint bookshop, Librairie des Rêves, suspects that their lives are about to irrevocably change.

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But after the Nazis occupy Paris, the warning bells sound from their friend, Ruth Levy, a Jewish widow with two young children, who knows beyond doubt that ‘the Germans are coming for all of us, no matter what the newspapers say.’

And when her reckless, Communist husband is arrested by the Nazis, Elise also becomes a target. In desperation, she entrusts Juliette with the most precious thing in her life... her young daughter Mathilde, playmate to Juliette’s own little girl Lucie.

In later years, with the war finally ending, Elise returns to reunite with Mathilde, only to find the bookshop reduced to rubble and Juliette nowhere to be found. What happened to her daughter in those last, terrible moments?

Juliette has seemingly vanished without a trace, taking all the answers with her. Elise’s desperate search leads her to New York – and to Juliette – one final, fateful time.

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Harmel truly tugs at our heartstrings in this exquisitely told tale of love, survival, courage, and the sheer strength of a mother’s love in the face of one of the cruellest and most far-reaching wars in history.

Although Elise and Juliette are the central figures in this exploration of the excruciatingly difficult choices that have to be made during wartime, there are other selfless characters – like Jewish mother Ruth – whose sacrifices are painful beyond comprehension.

But with her trademark emotional empathy, and insight into the upheaval and aftermath of separation and conflict, Harmel also tempers the darkness of her story with the shining light of hope, love, healing and new beginnings.

With its extensive research, rich period detail and psychological acumen, The Paris Daughter is an unmissable reading treat.

(Welbeck, trade paperback, £13.99)

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