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Blog Tour: While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart

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.

SYNOPSIS:

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.

MY REIVEW:

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. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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

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Cover Reveal: Beyond The Horizon by Ella Carey

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Published: August 26th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, War Story.

I’m delighted to be working with Bookouture today to take part in the cover reveal for Beyond The Horizon.

SYNOPSIS:

Suddenly, it became hard to breathe and the sound of the engine throbbed in Eva’s head. The plane crashed and skidded. She heard the wail of sirens. The last thing she remembered was pulling her body across the tarmac an inch at a time—before her world went black.

Sweetwater, Texas, 1943Eva has always wanted to fly away. She jumps at the chance to train with the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots and help the war effort, even if the days are exhausting, the southern nights sweltering. When she’s in the air, it’s all worthwhile: her heart soars, as close to infinity as you can get. And since she met handsome Jack, she has someone to fly back to. But on one dangerous night, everything goes wrong. When she awakes, her body is broken and her memory is gone…

Los Angeles, 1977. Eva seems like a normal married woman with a family to be proud of. When she woke up after that terrible night—a blank in her memory—Jack was smiling down at her. But so many decades later, Eva is still searching for answers about the night that changed her life forever. Why have letters to her fellow pilots gone unanswered for thirty years? What really happened on her last flight?

Ever since that catastrophic crash, Eva has lived with the worst fear imaginable: did she do something terrible enough to make her friends cut her off? Increasingly overcome by frightening flashbacks, where she is fighting to escape from a tiny cockpit filled with smoke as her plane falls to the ground, she desperately tries to uncover the truth. But are some secrets best left buried in the past?

From bestselling author Ella Carey comes a sweeping story, inspired by true events, about the brave, forgotten female pilots who helped America win the war. A story you will never forget, and one that will always stay in your heart.

This book was first published in 2019.

Ella Carey photo

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ella Carey is the international bestselling author of The Things We Don’t Say, Secret Shores, From a Paris Balcony, The House by the Lake, and Paris Time Capsule. Her books have been published in over fourteen languages, in twelve countries, and have been shortlisted for ARRA awards. A Francophile who has long been fascinated by secret histories set in Europe’s entrancing past, Ella has degrees in music, nineteenth-century women’s fiction, and modern European history. She lives in Melbourne with her two children and two Italian greyhounds who are constantly mistaken for whippets.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Colours by Juliet Bates

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Published: April 9th, 2020
Publisher: Fleet
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Domestic Fiction, War Story, Coming-of-Age Story

Today I’m thrilled to be opening the blog tour for this beautiful novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Fleet for the gifted copy of the book .

SYNOPSIS:

Ellen sees the world differently from everyone else, but living in a tiny town in the north-east of England, in a world on the cusp of war, no one has time for an orphaned girl who seems a little strange. When she is taken in to look after a rich, elderly widow all seems to be going better, despite the musty curtains and her aging employer completely out of touch with the world. But pregnancy out of wedlock spoils all this, and Ellen is unable to cope. How will Jack, her son, survive – alone in the world as his mother was? Can they eventually find their way back to each other?

The Colours is a sweeping novel of how we can lose ourselves, and our loved ones, for fans of Kate Atkinson and Virginia Baily.

MY REVIEW:

Told through the eyes of Ellen and her son Jack, the narrative of this beautifully written novel moves between timelines and points of view to tell the story of one family over the course of almost seventy years.

The Pearson family goes through a lot in this book. Loss, abandonment and mental illness are addressed in an authentic and heart-rending manner and we see Ellen and Jack both go through life-changing trauma at a young age – Ellen becoming an orphan and being sent to a convent and Jack being left with a stepfather he doesn’t get on with after his mother is sent to an asylum – and see the ripple effect of these issues. The reminder of how stigmatised and poorly treated mental illness stood out in particular to me and left me feeling very thankful for the advancements that have been made, however imperfect they may be.

As well as being the title of the book, colour is a theme that runs through the heart of this novel. Ellen has synesthesia, which means everything she sees and hears has a colour, while Jack is an artist, which combined with the lyrical and descriptive prose make this an evocative read which enables you to see the world through the narrators’ eyes.

I enjoyed this novel but did find it felt a bit slow at times. I think that part of this was because I found Ellen to be a more engaging character who I instantly connected with, while I struggled to connect with Jack. It picked up about half way through and I was enjoying his sections more.

Wonderfully written and elegant, The Colours is a moving story about family, loss and healing.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✫

Juliet Bates

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Juliet Bates studied art and art history in Bristol, Birmingham and Strasbourg, and has since lectured at graduate and post graduate levels. She moved to France in 2000 to a post as professeur at the Ecole régionale des beaux-arts Caen la mer. She has published a number of short stories in British and Canadian literary journals.

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FINAL Colours BT Poster