“Both epic and intimate, this unexpected story of two couples’ sacrifices in war-torn France had me completely and utterly enraptured. You’ll have your heart in your mouth and tears on your cheeks as it reaches its rich, life-affirming conclusion.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Ruth Druart’s début novel, While Paris Slept is a historical fiction story set in Nazi-occupied Paris during World War Two. The novel is Headline Review’s lead début novel for Spring 2021 and having read it, I can see why. Druart’s novel was easy to read and had me gripped right from the off and I continuously found myself mentally saying ‘just one more chapter’.
The novel opens in California in 1953 – the characters’ present-day – and it begins with what seems like a very normal day, however it soon takes a turn and the reader is thrown backwards to Paris, 1944, hooked in by intrigue and mystery of what went on in Jean-Luc and Charlotte’s past.
Each chapter of While Paris Slept is told through the eyes of one of the novel’s four main characters. Some narratives are told through first-person while others are written in third-person which creates an interesting and somewhat unique approach to storytelling. By telling the story through the eyes of various characters, jumping back and forth through time from 1953 to 1944 and then back again, and breaking the story up into four ‘parts’, Ruth Druart also build the perfect balance of suspense throughout the novel, leaving the reader on several mini cliff-hangers at the end of chapters or parts of the novel.
Ruth Druart’s While Paris Slept questions what family, home, heritage and belonging truly mean and how important they are in a person’s understanding of themselves. It portrays the long-lasting impacts of the war and holocaust by showing people’s lives following the end of the war. While Paris Slept is the story of two strangers whose paths crossed, binding them together forever in an act of desperation and trust. It is an emotive, powerful and truly unforgettable novel about sacrifice, family, and the tenacity of love juxtaposed with the brutality of war.
Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog
Added 18th February 2021