I love books that take place in France (hence, the name of the blog). And I really loved reading Lynn Sheene’s The Last Time I Saw Paris. It starts in 1940, when Claire runs away from a life of lies in New York City to start anew in Paris. She had planned on living with a former lover, but ends up fending for herself because of her pride. An older French woman sees something in Claire when the American stops to admire flowers at her flower shop, and soon Claire has a job as the assistant of the flower shop. But then everything turns upside down when the Nazis occupy Paris. Claire has experience getting herself into high society, and she starts to use her talent to help the French Resistance. But when she starts to have feelings for one of her fellow Resistance workers, things get complicated. Soon, Claire has to flee Paris. Does she have what it takes to someday get back to the city she loves, and also the man she loves?
This book combines three of my favorite things: France. World War II. And a cute love story. So I read this pretty quickly and really enjoyed it. I adore reading about/watching anything about the French Resistance. The people who were a part of it were just ordinary people like you and me who were trying to do their bit for their country when it was taken over by Nazi Germany. These people were SO brave. And I loved seeing Claire change from being a pretty selfish young woman who loves jewels (and seducing men to get gifts from them and to get into the best parties) to being a brave woman who actually cares about others and risks her own life for them. Loved that. Loved it loved it loved it. It’s a pretty slow change, but it is definitely noticeable. I actually wasn’t too fond of Claire as a character in the beginning, because I thought she was kind of a b***h. But by the end I absolutely adored her.
My favorite character by far though was Madame Palain, the woman who owns the flower shop. She was what Claire thought of as the “typical older French woman”, but she was so refined and lady like without being outrageous like Claire. Claire even tries to emulate her eventually. Madame Palain is so graceful, and although she usually seems like a hard old lady, she’s actually got a very warm heart. She was my favorite character and even though I finished this book a while ago, I still find myself thinking about Madame Palain. After all, she knows what’s really important when your life and your city is in turmoil. No matter what was going on in Paris, Madame Palain made sure to keep her shop open and to work hard.
I also loved how this book takes place right in the middle of the Occupation. I don’t know how accurate it’s portrayed, because I haven’t really read/seen anything else about what it was really like to live in Paris during this time, but it seemed so real to me. These people were living in an occupied city, but they were still proud to be Parisian and wouldn’t let anyone take that away from them.
The only real beef I had with the book was the ending. I liked how it ended, I just thought the last bit happened way too fast. Like that last chapter was rushed. I think I would have been much more affected by that last chapter if it had gone a little slower.
All in all, I really enjoyed reading The Last Time I Saw Paris. It’s the kind of book I love to curl up with on the weekend and read in just a few sittings. For more info on the book and the author, go to Lynne Sheene’s website.