Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Latest Harmel - Darn Good

You all know what I thought of Kristin Harmel's The Life Intended (just in case you inadvertently missed it(!), you can go to my post from February 3 and read all about it).  Now along comes Kristin's latest, The Room on Rue Amelie.  She completely shifts gears from contemporary fiction to historical fiction.  And, might I add, she does it seamlessly.  I happen to be a big fan of historical fiction, especially that which centers on WWII.  I have learned a bunch of history this way.  And I would even add The Alice Network to that group, even though that was geared toward WWI. But Room fits in with my other favorites extremely well.  Here's the synopsis:

When newlywed Ruby Henderson Benoit arrives in Paris in 1939 with her French husband, Marcel, she imagines strolling arm in arm along the grand boulevard, awash in the golden afternoon light.  But war is looming on the horizon, and as France falls to the Nazis, her marriage begins to splinter too.
Charlotte Dacher is eleven when the German roll into the French capital, their sinister swastika flags snapping in the breeze.  After the Jewish restrictions take effect and Jews are ordered to wear a yellow star, Charlotte can't imagine things getting much worse.  But then the mass deportations begin, and her life is forever ripped apart.
Thomas Clarke joins the Royal Air Force to protect his country, but when his beloved mother dies in a German bombing during the waning days of the Blitz, he wonders if he's really making a difference.  Then he finds himself in Paris, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and he discovers a new reason to keep fighting - and an unexpected road home.
When fate brings them together, Ruby, Charlotte, and Thomas must summon the courage to defy the Nazis - and to pen their own broken hearts - as they fight to survive.

What did I like about The Room on Rue Amelie, you ask?  A whole mess a' stuff.  To wit:

1.  I loved learning all about the escape lines out of Paris.  In this book, these were largely for downed pilots to get back across the channel. Fascinating.
2.  I loved that the 1st chapter starts with an older couple in the present (2002) and then goes right to 1938 Paris.  And that the rest of the book, except for the last 5 pages, takes place just prior to, and all during, the war.  My initial reaction to the couple in chapter 1 was that they were going to be one of my favorite literary couples ever.
3.  I loved the emotional connection I got to make with the characters immediately.  And how that did not abate all the way through the end. In fact there might have been a tear or two in a few (dozen) places throughout the book.
4.  I loved the progression of dates from December of 1938 to August of 1944.  I am in awe of how Kristin (and other authors) seem to know almost instinctively how much time should lapse from one chapter to the next.  Kristin did it masterfully, as far as I was concerned.  I remember making comments to myself like "Wow.  6 months have elapsed."  Or "They are still in the same month."  Very cool.
5.  I loved how she somehow slipped in a few chuckle-inducing moments.  Not an easy thing to do with a piece of history that is so serious.
6.  I loved how I accidentally thought I figured out on page 284 (out of 383) who the old couple was.  And then it turned out I was right.  You all know that I usually can't figure out anything until the author chooses to tell me.
7.  And I loved/unloved how my self-revelation led me to be very worried over the last 100+ pages about other main characters.  I had much foreboding.
(8.  I loved how distraught I was as certain circumstances unfolded, leading to a whole bunch of expletives.

So, I guess if you've got nothing to do and want to learn a little bit about Germany-occupied France during WWII, you can pick up The Room on Rue Amelie...I'm pulling your leg.  Pick this sucker up immediately.  You will transition from swearing at me to singing my (limited) virtues. Seriously.


  1. I am eager to read this one, and am so glad you are singing its praises. :-)

    1. I take it you've already read Harmel's The Life Intended? What about The Alice Network by Kate Quinn?

  2. I'm wondering why I've never read this author.

    1. I only read her because Melissa semi-insisted. I just ordered one of her earlier ones The Sweetness of Forgetting.

  3. Thanks for the great write-up about this book. I'm really interested because I love to read about WWII as well.

    1. Have you read The Alice Network? It's about WWI, but it's fascinating. How about The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff? Or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows? Or The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Those are all great WWII books.

  4. I'm a fan of historical fiction so this really appeals to me. Thanks for weighing in on it!