Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

A story told in multiple letter exchanges, and beginning at the end in 1968 where one of the soldiers we met in the letters is in Paris revisiting his war years, and finally opening the last unread letter. The collaboration of Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb bring us

Last Christmas in Paris

Starting in 1968, an older Thomas is re-reading letters from friends and family sent to and fro during the Great War, or World War I. Age and illness have caught up to him, and he’s seeking to lay the ghosts from the past to rest, all these years later. And just perhaps, he’ll have the courage now to open and read the last letter.

August 1914, England is at war and a sort of hyper-patriotic excitement has gripped her young men. They can’t believe this will be a protracted action, over by Christmas they believe, and they enlist and head off to fight the menace. But, war has a way of changing people, hopes, dreams and landscapes, and that is not only applicable to those left behind. Young Evie Elliott watches her brother Will and his best friend (and her crush) Thomas leave. They promise to stay in touch and be in one another’s lives through letters: many letters, sent frequently. And, the friends (with several others) do just that – letters from home ae full of gossip, chatter and cheer, while the letters from the front slowly change in tone, as the war drags on, the horrors accumulate and that Christmas ending, at least for 1914, is postponed repeatedly.

The prolonged war and the separations are hard on everyone, particularly the women left behind. And Evie feels them all keenly. Information in the newspapers is clearly meant to boost morale, while letters have large passages redacted and the information shared in them paints a far different picture than what Evie has read in the news. Determined to share the truth, she assumes a pen name and starts to write more of the ‘real’ horrors of the war, and about the lives of the young men fighting.

Fast moving, as each character builds to completion before our eyes in the letters that go to and fro. Each letter is a small glimpse into a moment – the moment of writing, the retelling of clever stories, the telling of the horrors and even sharing historical facts and information that allow the reader to delve into the story and lives of the characters. Much of the story is focused on the growing affections (if true feelings are rarely shared) between Thomas and Evie, and their correspondence sets a framework to share stories, moments and burdens with all of the friends. Moments to laugh, cry and worry, as the war unfolds over several long and tiresome years, filled with loss. Loss of hope, adjusting dreams and even that shattering of the innocence that is so apparent and prevalent in the first moments of the story – it’s a book that demands you take your time and absorb the moments as they pass. This one will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Title: Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I
Author: Hazel Gaynor, Heather Webb
Genre: British, Historical Fiction, Setting: Britain, Setting: France, Woman's Fiction, World War I
Published by: William Morrow
ISBN: 006256269X
Published on: 3 October, 2017
Format:eARC
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Pages: 400
Audio Length: 11 Hours: 40 minutes
Rated: four-stars
Heat: Half a Flame

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New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About Hazel Gaynor

Hazel Gaynor’s 2014 debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME – A Novel of the Titanic was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. A MEMORY OF VIOLETS is her second novel.

Hazel writes a popular guest blog ‘Carry on Writing’ for national Irish writing website writing.ie and contributes regular feature articles for the site, interviewing authors such as Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed, Rachel Joyce and Jo Baker, among others.

Hazel was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers and was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. She appeared as a guest speaker at the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Novel Society annual conferences in 2014.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.

About Heather Webb

Heather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing.

 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

2 responses to “Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

  1. Carol Luciano

    Thank you for your post. I love both of these Author’s works. Looking forward to reading Last Christmas in Paris.
    Carol L

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