Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Headline Review
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this remarkable debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Headline Review for the gifted ARC.
On a platform in occupied Paris, a mother whispers goodbye.
It is the end.
But also the beginning.
Santa Cruz 1953. Jean-Luc thought he had left it all behind. The scar on his face a small price to pay for surviving the horrors of Nazi occupation. Now, he has a new life in California, a family. He never expected the past to come knocking on his door.
Paris 1944. A young woman’s future is torn away in a heartbeat. Herded on to a train bound for Auschwitz, in an act of desperation she entrusts her most precious possession to a stranger. All she has left now is hope.
On a darkened platform two destinies become entangled. Their choice will change the future in ways neither could have imagined.
Beginning on an ordinary day and ending on an extraordinary one, WHILE PARIS SLEPT is an unforgettable read.
Santa Cruz, 1953. Jean-Luc and Charlotte Beauchamp are living the American dream with their son Sam after fleeing Nazi occupation almost a decade ago. They have put the past behind them. Until the day a knock at their door resurfaces the everything they have tried to forget and the secret they have tried to bury since that fateful day at a Paris train station in 1944.
This book called out to me the moment I saw the cover. I love historical fiction and one of my favourite time periods is World War Two, so this was right up my street. Moving between dual timelines and multiple narrators, we are transported to Nazi-occupied France, the horrors of Auschwitz and post-war France and America to tell this story of love, loss, survival and forgiveness.
Druart highlights the torment faced by those living under German occupation; their fear palpable as they go about their days starved from rationing, terrified of being taken away for the smallest violation and fearing for the lives of those that have vanished in an instant. She also examines the dilemma and guilt that haunts them: do they say nothing and survive? Or stand up for what is right and risk their lives? A similar question torments the Jews as they try to decide if they should comply with Nazi orders, whether it be to wear a star on their clothing or to do what they are told in the camps, even at the expense of the lives of others around them. Survival is a basic human instinct and the anguish radiates from the pages.
Druart also looks at the PTSD experienced by survivors after the war and how they struggle with disbelief at what was done to them, wrestle with feeling like they should have done more or question why they were the ones to survive. There is also a profound sense of loss running through the story that takes many forms. Everyone has lost something because of the war. They have been altered by their experiences and the shape of their lives has changed because of them. It makes for difficult reading at time but conveys the true horror of war and its aftermath.
But what is at the heart of this story is love. More specifically, it’s the love of a parent for their child. Samuel is the light in the darkness and the reason to survive for both couples. By asking someone to protect him when they were being taken to Auschwitz, Sarah put her son before herself and Samuel became the one thing keeping her and David going during their days in hell. For nine years they searched, missing their child and wondering if he was alive. Meanwhile Jean-Luc and Charlotte risked their lives to save this little boy. A stranger’s child. They trekked through France, over the Pyrenees and through Europe before finally entering America knowing they could be arrested and killed if they were discovered. Love for this child is at the core of their existence for both couples. Druart asks if the actions of the Beauchamps and the Laffittes were right, even if they were made from a place of love. She doesn’t judge, simply examines the effects of these decisions on everyone involved and invites the reader to decide for themselves.
While I felt for both couples, the person who I felt for most of all was young Samuel. This boy broke my heart. It was utterly heartbreaking to read as he was ripped from the only home and family he’s ever known, drugged, and taken to a foreign country where he didn’t speak the language to live with people he’s never met. They may be his biological parents but they are strangers to him. All of his emotional attachment and safety rests with the people he’s taken from and told he must never again have contact with. I just wanted to reach into the book and hug him. It is clear that everyone involved wanted what is best for him, but there are no winners in the tug-of-war for this child. Especially not him.
Atmospheric, poignant, powerful and heartrending, While Paris Slept is a remarkable piece of historical fiction with a cinematic quality that makes it feel perfect for the big screen. Beautifully written and well researched, I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the genre or the time period.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Ruth Druart grew up on the Isle of Wight, moving away at the age of eighteen to study psychology at Leicester University. She has lived in Paris since 1993, where she has followed a career in teaching. She has recently taken a sabbatical, so that she can follow her dream of writing full-time.
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Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.
Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx