Lily Graham returns to the blog with a story told in past and present, through wartime and survival in
The Paris Secret
Annie is heading from Moscow to home via train when she encounters Valerie, an old woman now, carrying a battered blue suitcase as she is returning to Paris after her travels. While Valerie is convinced the young never notice the old, there’s something about Annie that brings her to share her story.
Born in Paris during the Occupation, Valerie was raised in England with her ‘Aunt’ Amélie and her husband, distant cousins and the only family Valerie believes she has. But one day she learns that she has a Grandfather in Paris, one who ‘gave’ her away, and with the help of her best friend Freddy, concocts a scheme to meet Vincent Dupont, her grandfather. Offered a position at his bookshop Griboullier (Scribbles) and a room, she at the ripe age of 20 is now the assistant on trial, and facing a place and a man she doesn’t remember. Taciturn at the best of times, explosively derisive as a norm, Vincent isn’t actually welcoming, but Valerie knows that she wants to find answers and her story, before revealing the truth of who she is.
Thus we see the story of Valerie’s mother Mirelle and the struggles during the war, and of the man who is her father: with his keeping them safe, helping her best friend Clothilde to escape to relative safety in Spain, and the subsequent arrest and jailing of her father, Vincent’s plea to Mattaus that he keep Mirelle safe, and the progression of their relationship. A diary in Mirelle and Mattaus’ hand detailing her pregnancy and infancy, giving her more of the story of her parents and those fraught moments, and the only piece of the story she knew – that she was given away – all fall to the wayside as Clothilde, who returned to Paris after the war’s end and is a neighbor and friend of Vincent can fill in pieces of the rest.
Of course, there are stories behind the Occupation, and horrors that were visited on those who stayed, and that one who was grieving so constantly for what he had lost, or mistakes he believes he made would make Vincent the toughest nut to crack. His cataloguing of the shop and rather unique approach to customers and their reading choices – all were manifestations of that grief. But, as a character, he is who stood out for me in a long list of people that were hard to turn from. His story now finally told, and his relief in reconnecting with Valerie, his joy in the ability to share with her stories of her mother and her bravery, and ultimately her death as well as the reasons she was sent from Paris, not ‘given away’ bring closure and a sort of peace to Valerie. Learning of her past, and understanding the full story of the family she didn’t know filled a hole that, despite being loved and treated as a treasured child, was still there. Emotional and complex, the story doesn’t pull any punches about the Occupation or its aftermath, or the effects that live in regrets and grief until the story is shared, told and understood. A different perspective from the Occupation stories I’ve encountered, Graham brings a palpable sense of the people and their choices as they struggled with what was right, best or even possible in a time when possible could be deadly.
Title: The Paris Secret
Author: Lily Graham
Genre: Contemporary Woman's Fiction, Dual Timeline, Family Saga, Historic Elements, Setting: France, World War II
Published by: Bookouture
Published on: 1 October, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google
On the brink of the second world war, a beautiful Parisian bookshop hides a heartbreaking secret that will tear one family apart forever …
The last time Valerie was in Paris, she was three-years-old, running from the Nazis, away from the only home she had ever known.
Now as a young woman, Valerie must return to Paris, to the bookshop and her only surviving relative, her grandfather Vincent, to find out what really happened to those she loved. As she gets to know Vincent again, she hears a tragic story of Nazi occupied Paris, a doomed love affair and a mother willing to sacrifice everything for her beloved daughter.
Can Valerie and Vincent help each other to mend the wounds of the past? Valerie isn’t after a fairy-tale ending, she only wants the truth. But what is the one devastating secret that Vincent is determined to keep from his granddaughter?
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.