Friday, October 06, 2017

Review: Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

Title: Last Christmas in Paris
Author: Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb
Published: October 2017, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: ARC Paperback, 40 pages
Source: Publisher
 
New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

My thoughts: As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I am a huge fan of Hazel Gaynor, having read almost all her books and loving them!!! And while I have only read one of Heather Webb's pieces so far - a short story she contributed to an anthology that Hazel was also a part of - I really enjoyed it and enjoyed meeting her in person! So, of course when I heard that this fantastic duo was penning a book together - I knew it was going on my list to read...and what a book it was! I just hope my review will do it justice.

I loved this book - it is both a beautiful love story while at the same time a harrowing depiction of life during the war both on the front line and back home. Told through letters, you really get the sense that you are right there alongside the characters, living through an awful time with them. While most of the letters exchanged are between Evie and Thomas, there are also letters to and from Evie's brother, Evie's best friend Alice, Thomas's father, and Thomas's father's solicitor. 

This story gives you all the feels - it is highly emotional as you live through what it was like to be on the outside while your loved ones were fighting on the front line. The press was not as forth-coming with the true news of what was actually going on, so these letters were giving a much more accurate depiction of what life was really like on the front line.

The writing itself was very intense - I could feel the desperation when Evie didn't hear from Thomas for long periods of time. I could feel Thomas's longing for home and his desperation for this war to be over. But interspersed throughout was a bit of humor and a touch of romance.  It really was very well balanced in this regard.

I loved that this book was written in letter format...it is such a unique way to tell a story, and yet in this instance, it made so much sense. I think by using this format, it really allows for a deeper intimacy to the characters and it shows more vulnerabilities within them. They are literally bearing their souls in these letters at times. It really makes for such a deeper connection with the characters and for a beautiful, yet emotional read. I fully admit I was crying by the end of this book - happy tears, but still tears.

This is one book that I can see myself reaching for to read over and over again - much like my other favorite epistolary novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I have read and reread many times! There is just something about a book told in letter format that gets me...why is it that we don't send hand-written letters anymore? 

 

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2 comments

  1. I've not read a book in a letter format for a long while. It was a very good way of following a story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kristin, I also enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This sounds like a good epistolary novel as well.

    ReplyDelete

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