Two women, two times in Paris, two lots of emotion and despair. Nevertheless, this staggeringly well written novel speaks of the beauty, the love and the loyalty which transfigures lives. In 2009 Caroline has an accident which robs her of her memory, and she is left to discover her present in the light of her mysterious past. In another time, in the same streets, Celine lives in 1943, her city under German occupation , with all the fear that implies. As themes of the simple beauty of flowers and love for those nearest to them emerge, this almost painfully plotted novel is a strong account of the strength of people, especially women, when challenged. It echoes the unique character of Parisian streets, cafes and memories, as the characters move in spaces which are the same yet different. As memories and secrets emerge, and identities are discovered, this world of people and places show the light and darkness of lives, in a powerful way. I was so caught up in this novel, and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to read and review it.
The novel opens with Caroline cycling through the streets of Paris in a fury. Someone has appeared in her life that has brought back painful memories, and she is remembering how angrily she had stormed out of a restaurant. Within seconds she is in danger and must make a split second decision that will affect her life and the lives of others.
Celine is living in an apartment in Paris with her father and young daughter, Cosi. Widowed at a young age, she is beginning to discover that a life long friend may well be more than she had imagined, and she is falling in love. As she continues to work with her father in the florist shop which is so important to her, she desperately hopes that her life and small family can survive quietly in a city dominated by the whims and threats of Nazi officers.
As Caroline tries to come to terms with her memory loss, she meets people who appear to know her as a withdrawn and sad figure. As she discovers where her true talents lie, she begins to question what may have gone on in her special apartment. She discovers documents that speak of Celine and her love for Luc, and realises that she has much to remember herself about love and life.
This was the sort of but that had me reading faster and faster to find out just what happened. Despite the challenges that they each face, both women are called on to “resist, forgive and love”, and to truly realise that “forgiveness is a gift”. This is a love song to Paris, beyond the tourist favourites and into the lives of the people who actually live there. The research is impeccable into a really difficult period in France’s history, yet never gets in the way of the story which is always strong and meaningful. I recommend it as a novel with much to say beyond a straightforward romance, and much to say about the true nature of love.