An American in Paris by Siobhan Curham
Paris, 1940: Walking through Montmartre that morning was like the eerie calm right before a storm. The roads were deserted. We carried on, arm in arm, and then finally, we saw them. Columns and columns of soldiers, spreading through the streets like a toxic grey vapour. ‘You must write about this,’ he whispered to me. ‘You must write about the day freedom left Paris.’
As Nazi troops occupy the City of Lights, American journalist Florence is determined to do everything she can to save her adopted home and the man she loves.
Florence had arrived in Paris in 1937 and on a beautiful summer’s day, met and fell in love with Otto, a Jewish artist from Austria, who had fled persecution in his homeland. But as swastikas are draped along the city’s wide boulevards, everything Otto was running from seems to have caught up with him.
Both Florence and Otto begin lending their talents to the Resistance, working to sabotage the Germans right under their noses. Florence’s society columns that, before the war were filled with tales of glamorous Parisian parties, now document life under occupation and hide coded messages for those fighting outside France for freedom. While Otto risks arrest in order to pin up the anti-Nazi posters he designs by candlelight in their tiny apartment.
But with every passing day, things become more dangerous for Otto to remain in Paris. If Florence risks everything by accepting a secret mission, can she ensure his survival so that they can be reunited once the war is over?
A sweeping wartime story that will capture your heart and never let it go. Fans of The Alice Network, The Lost Girls of Paris and My Name is Eva will be absolutely gripped from the very first page.
Florence and Otto’s love story is heart-warming and heart breaking, but it was her determination, inner strength and ability to survive, even when at her emotionally lowest, that had me hooked. From her solo voyage across the Atlantic, to creating a life for herself in Paris and doing all she could, despite the dangers, to resist the Nazis, Florence was an inspiration. I feared for Otto from the start, a Jew and an immigrant, arriving in Paris at the right time to meet Florence, but at completely the wrong time historically, but the bond between them was poetic and beautiful.
This is not just a gripping wartime drama that will have your heart in your mouth as you read about Florence’s extraordinary life, it is also a book with a second storyline, in a separate time period, that I was equally captivated with. We meet Sage, Instagram influencer who has lost her way and her creative zing, her life ruled by the brands who pay her and the followers who worship her. Sage has it all; the income, the lifestyle and access to the events that matter, but she is not happy. One night her emotions (and alcohol) take over and she posts an honest video that causes a backlash of social media outrage and hatred directed at her, highlighting everything that is wrong, and anti-social, about social media. It is when she is at her lowest that a stranger from America gets in touch. Sam offers Sage a calm place to recover, answers to questions from her past and an opportunity to move forward for her future.
Sage and Florence were two very different women, but both of their journeys had me hoping for positive outcomes and happiness for characters I had come to care about. There was something refreshingly different about this book that really connected with me emotionally.
If you are looking for a New Year read that perfectly entwines the past and the present, with strong characters, passion and emotion, then An American in Paris will give you this and more.
Siobhan Curham is an award-winning author, ghost writer, editor and writing coach. She has also written for many newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Guardian, Breathe magazine, Cosmopolitan, Writers’ Forum, DatingAdvice.com, and Spirit & Destiny. Siobhan has been a guest on various radio and TV shows, including Woman’s Hour, BBC News, GMTV and BBC Breakfast. And she has spoken at businesses, schools, universities and literary festivals around the world, including the BBC, Hay Festival, Cheltenham Festival, Bath Festival, Ilkley Festival, London Book Fair and Sharjah Reading Festival.