Review by Leslie Farin
This month’s pick of the month from Andrea Peskind-Katz from GREAT THOUGHTS, GREAT READERS is “The Paris Daughter” by Kristin Harmel
What is “The Paris Daughter” About?
Elise LeClair and Juliette Foulon, both expats from New York, become fast friends the day they meet in the beautiful Bois de Boulogne, a park in France. Juliette is married to Paul, an affectionate doting husband, and together they own a bookshop called Librairie des Rêves. The couple already has two young boys and are expecting another baby. Elise is married to Oliver, a talented, but self-absorbed painter with whom Elise had a whirlwind romance that led to a quick wedding. When she meets Juliette, she is pregnant with her first child. Both women are due to give birth around the same time, and when they do, their relationship grows even stronger. Each has a baby girl, and the two little ones, develop a close bond as well. Though the women heard grumblings about the Germans and the threat of invasion, neither suspect how significantly their lives are about to change.
Keeping the children safe – heartbreaking decisions.
Neither of the two women are Jewish, but they have a Jewish friend, Ruth Levy, who makes the heartbreaking decision to send her children away to try to keep them safe, then flees herself. Soon after, Elise becomes concerned for both her own safety and that of her daughter, Mathilde, when Oliver starts to behave erratically and irresponsibly. He does not seem to realize the danger he puts all of them in, or perhaps he doesn’t care. Elise, considered guilty by association, soon becomes a target of the German occupation. Her husband’s art dealer provides her with fake papers and encourages her to flee without Mathilde as he said the Germans would look for a woman with a child. She struggles with the decision to leave her beloved child behind, but ultimately decides that’s what needs to be done to keep her safe. She leaves Matilde with her dear friends, Juliette and Paul, with a heavy heart, hoping for the best. Unfortunately, it seems no place is safe in times of war.
Moving on after the war.
Over a year later, with the war ending, Elise returns to Paris to reunite with Mathilde and the Foulons, but finds their home reduced to rubble from a wayward bomb. and Julliete is nowhere to be found. Elise doesn’t know what happened to the Foulons or her daughter. In the meantime, Elise tires to rebuild her life and lose herself in her own artistic endeavors that she gave up when she had to flee. Soon after, she happens upon Ruth Levy’s two children and takes them in until they can locate their mother. Eventually, and against all hope, they find Ruth Levy upon her return from a concentration camp. Ruth later moves with her children to New York to start a new life. There, years later, she encounters Juliette, who lost her husband and all but her youngest child, Lucie, in the Paris bombing. Juliette remarried, but never successfully moved on, and seems to be a very different person than Ruth remembers. When Ruth tells Elise she found Juliette and Lucie in New York, Elise travels to New York desperately hoping to learn what happened to her daughter. In New York, she finds answers to many of her questions about Mathilde and a whole lot more. There are a lot of surprising twists and turns along the way.
My Review of “The Paris Daughter”
Kristin Harmel often writes about ordinary people in extraordinary situations and “The Paris Daughter” is no exception. She looks at what it was like to be a parent during WWII in Paris and the heartbreaking decisions made to keep children safe. Harmel also explores the physiological impact of war and losing loved ones, and the different ways people cope with their grief. As a mother, I found this book often moved me to tears.
The story is fictional but based on well researched facts related to the time and circumstances in Paris. The characters are exceptionally well developed, and Harmel made it easy to “see”, “hear” and “relate” to them. I felt I knew each of the main characters very well due to her vivid descriptions and insight. I was even able to understand some of the characters’ bad behavior. While it’s easy to judge others, who knows how any of us would behave under the same circumstances.
While the ending of the story was not completely a surprise, I still loved every minute of this book. Harmel has a wonderful style of writing that make her books hard to put down. I finished this one in three days. Highly recommend.
I received a copy of The Paris Daughter by Kristin Harmel, from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author: Kristin Harmel
Kristin Harmel is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels including The Paris Daughter, The Forest of Vanishing Stars, The Book of Lost Names, The Room on Rue Amélie, and The Sweetness of Forgetting. She is published in more than thirty languages sold all over the world and is the cofounder and cohost of the popular web series, Friends & Fiction.
After graduating with a degree in journalism (with a minor in Spanish) from the University of Florida, Kristin spent time living in Paris and Los Angeles and now lives in Orlando, with her husband and young son. She is also the co-founder and co-host of the popular weekly web show and podcast
Other Books by Kristin Harmel
Kristin Harmel is an accomplished author known for writing a variety of novels, including historical fiction, women’s fiction, and contemporary fiction. Here is a list of some of her most notable books along with brief descriptions:
“How to Sleep with a Movie Star” (2006)
This novel explores the life of Claire Reilly, a young woman who accidentally falls into the world of Hollywood when she becomes the personal assistant to a famous actor. The story delves into the glitz, glamour, and complexities of celebrity life.
“The Blonde Theory” (2007)
In this romantic comedy, Harper Roberts is a smart, successful woman who decides to test a theory that being blonde will make her more attractive to men. The novel explores themes of identity, self-discovery, and the pursuit of love.
“The Art of French Kissing” (2007)
This book follows a young woman named Carter who embarks on a culinary adventure in Paris. Along the way, she discovers not only the art of French cooking but also the art of romance.
“When You Wish” (2008)
The novel tells the story of Star Beck, a young woman who stumbles upon a mysterious wishing well in the small town of Destiny, Florida. As she makes wishes for others, she also finds her own life taking unexpected and magical turns.
“Italian for Beginners” (2009)
This novel centers around Cat Connelly, who relocates to Rome to escape a broken engagement. While there, she immerses herself in Italian culture and language, leading to a journey of self-discovery and new beginnings.
“After” explores the life of Emily Emerson, a woman who has just experienced a painful breakup. The novel follows her journey of healing and self-discovery as she navigates life post-relationship.
“The Sweetness of Forgetting” (2012)
This novel tells the story of a pastry chef, Hope McKenna-Smith, who discovers a family secret when she finds an old recipe book. As she delves into her family’s past, she uncovers a tale of love, loss, and resilience that spans generations and continents.
“The Life Intended” (2015)
After a tragic accident, Kate Waithman’s life takes a different path than she had planned. However, she begins having vivid dreams of an alternate life with a different husband. This novel explores themes of destiny, second chances, and the power of love.
“When We Meet Again” (2016):
Emily Emerson’s life takes an unexpected turn when she discovers a letter from her late grandmother that hints at a mysterious past. As she investigates her family’s history, she uncovers secrets, forgiveness, and the possibility of finding love again.
“The Room on Rue Amélie” (2018)
Set during World War II, this historical novel follows the lives of three individuals in Nazi-occupied Paris. Ruby is a young American woman. Charlotte is a Jewish teenager. Thomas is a British RAF pilot. Their paths intertwine as they navigate the challenges and dangers of wartime France.
“The Winemaker’s Wife” (2019)
This novel weaves together two parallel stories, one set in present-day Champagne, France, and the other during World War II. It explores the lives of two women connected by their ties to a prestigious champagne house and secrets that endured through the decades.
“The Book of Lost Names” (2020)
In this historical novel, a Jewish forger and documentarian, Eva Traube Abrams, flees Paris during World War II. She leaves behind a book of forged identification papers. Eva Traube Abrams. This book holds the key to the true identities of children she helped save. Decades later, Eva’s past resurfaces, and she is compelled to confront her wartime actions.
“The Forest of Vanishing Stars” (2021)
This novel follows a young girl named Yona who grows up in the forests of Eastern Europe in the early 1940s. Yona possesses a unique ability to communicate with the natural world. She becomes a guide to Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. The story explores survival, identity, and the bonds of community.
These titles showcase Kristin Harmel’s versatility as an author. Her books encompass a wide range of genres from romance and comedy to self-discovery and family drama.
About Andrea Peskind Katz from GREAT THOUGHTS, GREAT READERS:
Andrea Peskind Katz runs Great Thoughts, Great Readers, a Book Salon presented via her private FB group where approximately 5,000 prolific readers and authors interact. To quote Robert Frost, she created her “second act” career to “unite my avocation and my vocation”. After 20 years in high-pressure sales, Andrea retired to spend time doing what she loves best: hanging with her family and reading good books.