Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Book Review: Last Christmas in Paris, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Title: Last Christmas in Paris
Author: Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Release date: 3rd October 2017
Publisher: William Morrow (available in the UK through Harper 360)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Review copy from Harper 360

Christmastime in Paris... Thomas Harding travels to the City of Lights, a packet of cherished letters in hand... letters that tell a story of love a loss, friendship and family, and the innocent hopes of a generation devastated by war. As he reads the letters one more time, Tom is transported back to 1914 and the sunlit August day when Evie Elliott waves goodby to him and her brother Will, as they head to the Western Front. 

All believe the war will be over by Christmas when the trio plan to reunite and celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris. But it is not to be. As months slip into years, Tom's and Evie's lives become bound together by the letters and telegrams, notes and stories that travel between them, from the front line in France to a quiet suburb of London. But as their friendship flourishes, there is far more than words held between the pages of Tom's and Evie's letters. 
Now, decades later, Thomas finds himself once again in his beloved Paris, determined to fulfill a last promise and to lay to rest the ghosts of the past... but one final letter is waiting for him. 

My thoughts: 
The basic premise of Last Christmas in Paris is quite straightforward: Evie and Tom write letters to each other during the First World War, with occasional letters to other friends and family included too. Tom and Will go off to France all excited, eager to do their part, sort out the enemy, and meet their friends a couple of months later. We all know how it actually turned out, and the horrors of the Front.

I loved that it was all told in letters, and I found it very quick to read in that format - 'just one more letter' is a lot faster than 'one more chapter', so I'd end up reading far more at once than I expected to! It was really interesting seeing how their lives developed, and how things went unsaid, and their slow realisation that in fact they did love each other. But the framing of the story is that Tom is rereading these in Paris years later, and it's vague enough that you really don't know up until the very end if it all turns out ok for them. I liked the fact that that tension remained throughout the whole book.

Although this is a fairly typical war story, with ups and downs and lots of personal growth and a slow building romance, I did really enjoy it, and was in tears in several places. A well written book, in a really enjoyable format that managed to sustain the tension right through to the end. Overall I'm giving it 7 out of 10.


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