Last Christmas in Paris
Book Review - Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
This is both a book review and an announcement. Did you know that Chicago and Paris have been sister cities for over 20 years? So it seems appropriate to announce that this is my last Christmas in Chicago in my book review of Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Mariah Webb. My husband and I are moving to St. Louis to be closer to family. This is a bitter sweet announcement, as Chicago is my favorite city and I would prefer not leave it and the many wonderful friends I've made here. But I'm comforted by the fact that I'll be closer to family and it is likely we'll return to live in Chicago in the future. So with that, let's review this book...
Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Mariah Webb would be the perfect book to listen to via Audible if you have a long drive to visit family over the Holidays - it runs about 8 hours (you can listen to it in less if you play on 1.5x speed, like I do!) From the very first paragraph, I was hooked. The authors did an excellent job of foreshadowing just enough to capture my imagination and draw me into the story.
I thought the characters were both believable and relatable. The majority of the book is written as a series of letters and telegrams between Evie Elliott; her brother, Will; Will's best friend, Thomas Harding; and Evie's best friend, Alice. I felt like I had discovered a stack of correspondence from my Grandparents and got a peek into their lives before I was born (I actually have gone through my Grandmother's diaries and her letters to and from my Grandpa while he was at war...it is an incredible experience.) You can see their lives unfolding, changing for better and worse, through their written words to one another. It is such a powerful and beautiful book.
The book spends quite a bit of time addressing PTSD during World War I, which is referred to as "weakness of spirit" or "war neurosis." The authors do a wonderful job of showing how doctor's didn't know what kind of ailment they were dealing with. It breaks my heart to read about the soldiers and how they were treated (both medically and socially) due to lack of knowledge or understanding of PTSD. I read quite a bit of historical fiction and this book addresses PTSD head on from the perspective of WWI - I don't remember reading anything quite like this.
The story centers around Evie, who starts out writing to her brother and his friend to keep their spirits up during the war. Over time she develops stronger feelings for Thomas but she can't be sure if the feelings are mutual. Evie begins a career writing for the newspaper - a woman's perspective on the war. Evie's friend is a nurse living in another city and later in France treating wounded soldiers. All characters are doing what they can to help the war effort - but will they all return home? And if so, will they be the same people they were before the war?
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