Book Review: Paris Noire by: Francine Thomas Howard

Rating: 3/5

Publisher: AmazonEncore

Publish Date: September 20, 2011

Origins: From Publisher for Review

Format: Trade Paperback

Order From:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Paris, 1944: the city steams in the summer heat, bristling with anticipation of its impending liberation. It marks the beginning of the end of a devastating war…and the beginning of a year like no other for Marie-Therese Brillard and her children, Colette and Christophe. They first came to Paris from Martinique in 1928, among the immigrants of color who flocked to France in the 1920s and 30s. They settled in Montmartre, a vibrant neighborhood teeming with musicians, writers, and artists, and began the arduous task of building a new life in a new land. The rigors of World War II only added to the adversity beneath which Marie-Therese struggled. Its culmination should offer her relief, and yet…

When Colette and Christophe are swept up in the jubilation following the Nazis’ departure, each embarks upon a passionate love affair that Marie-Therese fears will cost them their dreams—or their lives. Twenty-year-old Colette begins a dalliance with a white Frenchman, a romance forbidden for the quadroon child of an immigrant. Her older brother Christophe becomes the lover of the beautiful wife of a French freedom fighter, a relationship Marie-Therese suspects can only end in heartache and bloodshed. Adding yet another complication is the man she calls Monsieur Lieutenant, the handsome black soldier whose mere presence intrigues Marie-Therese as no man has before.

Set against the turbulent backdrop of wartime France, Paris Noire is a dramatic and engrossing novel that brings to vivid life the remarkable people once relegated to the fringes of history.

Review: I was looking forward to learning more about the Nazi occupation of France during World War II and the subsequent liberation in Ms. Howard’s newest novel, Paris Noire. I thought it might be gritty and deftly blend the fictional characters with the bloody reality of 1944 Paris.

Paris Noire revolves around Marie-Therese, a black immigrant from Martinique, and her two children, Colette and Christophe, who were the product of her marriage to a white Frenchman.

While every mother wants the best for her children, I don’t know that Marie-Therese went about it in the most effective way possible. Instead of encouraging her children to be their own people, she sets so many “rules” about their relationships with others that the kids rebel. I wish the characters were a little less two-dimensional or caricatures of themselves.

Overall, the racial issues were well executed in regard to the omission in the history of WWII of the contributions that black soldiers made to the resistance. However, I felt like Marie-Therese made a bigger issue of it in her personal life than necessary - especially with her comments about her daughter dating a white man.

Another issue is the historical facts are not as solid as they should be, with many things included that did not happen in the time frame of the novel or were just plain inaccurate. Also, there were many descriptive phrases and dialogue used over and over again which, for me, detracted from the novel.

Paris Noire seemed to be more of a romance novel thinly veiled as a blending of fact and fiction of the life and times of people in 1944 Paris. I also wasn’t very fond of the “neat and tidy” ending to the novel, which felt forced and didn’t really seem to fit the book as a whole. 

1 comment:

  1. I've been seeing quite a few books about or set in Paris recently. This sounds like a good historical novel.


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