REVIEW: PARIS NEVER LEAVES YOU, BY ELLEN FELDMAN

Living through World War II working in a Paris bookstore with her young daughter, Vivi, and fighting for her life, Charlotte is no victim, she is a survivor. But can she survive the next chapter of her life?

Alternating between wartime Paris and 1950s New York publishing, Ellen Feldman’s Paris Never Leaves You is an extraordinary story of resilience, love, and impossible choices, exploring how survival never comes without a cost.

The war is over, but the past is never past.

Paris Never Leaves You was a breathtaking story of one woman’s journey during a troublesome time in the world. When Charlotte and her young daughter Vivi do what they have to do to survive the hard times, while still finding comfort where they can, she had no idea that the next chapter in her life would force her to accept some unpleasant truths about how she survived and how she would explain those years to her daughter.

When Charlotte starts her new life in New York City, working in a publishing house under a sponsorship from an American publisher, she follows the credo that some secrets are best kept to oneself. But Vivi probes for answers about their lives in Paris, their heritage, and any other moments that can make her feel a part of something.

Will Charlotte be able to finally tell her true story to Vivi and to others? How will she accept the part of herself and her life that she finds unpalatable?

Charlotte discovers that doing what you have to do to stay alive might be unpleasant or hard to accept, but that very acceptance can also be liberating and a way forward. A 5 star read.

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A LITERARY FEAST — A REVIEW

Even though this book is listed as “fiction,” it feels as much like a memoir as anything I have read. Published posthumously, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast chronicles a time when the writer was young, often strapped for cash, but seemingly at his best in terms of his craft, his zeal, and the “literary feasts” that he enjoyed in the company of other writers–many of whom were expatriates like Hemingway.

Surrounded by such greats as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway shone as a young writer moving up. Despite the constant party swirling around all of them, nothing seemed to stifle the “unbridled creativity and unquenchable enthusiasm.”

Unlike other stories I have read from this time, the relationship with his first wife Hadley felt almost like a footnote. She is mentioned frequently, but mostly in her secondary role as wife and companion. His first love was the all-consuming writing craft and the cafes he inhabited in order to soak up the ambience that enriched his prose.

Despite the rather spare style, which is typical Hemingway, I could almost see, hear, and smell the Paris of the 1920s. Hemingway wrote in a conversational voice, as if sharing his thoughts and feelings. In this way, I, as the reader, could almost glimpse the world firsthand.

A very engaging portrait of a time in a writer’s life, and the world populated by other greats: five stars!