Happy Spring! It finally feels like spring around here and we’re hopeful that we’ll soon see all our tulips and our flowers trees around our neighborhood. I can’t believe April is almost over. It has flown!
Today I am so excited to share my review of Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. This has been one of my favorite reads of 2023 and I’ve been recommending it like crazy. This novel was absolutely beautiful and so moving!
Book Summary: “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…”
The WWI setting was poignant and intense. I find this particular time period so intriguing. Perhaps in part because it is not often a focus of novels. There are not a lot of novels set in WWI as opposed to WWII yet this novel shows why there should be more WWI novels. The descriptions of life at the front were eye opening. I was reminded of my experience at the Imperial War Museum in London. The horrors of the trenches, the fear clinging to everyone, the uncertainty about the future. I also was very intrigued by the stories of life at home. The way the papers fudge the truth for the loved ones waiting for news. The different jobs that women begin doing like delivering the post, journalism, working in factories, nursing, telephone switch board operators and more. Fascinating to see that change and the search for truth.
I LOVE the epistolary form of this novel. Reminds me of everything I love about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The letters are full of beautiful emotion and detailed descriptions of life. I loved the different voices of Evie and Tom and their friends and family. There is something so special about seeing a story through letters. Seeing the way Evie and Tom’s friendship blossoms into something bigger is just beautiful. I love the way they build each other up and rely on each other as they overcome the horrors of war. So poignant to read about Tom’s experiences at the front, seeing people die, feeling guilt for his survival, needing help at a hospital, and more. Loved Evie’s determination to do her bit for the war with her columns which were fascinating and quite moving. Also going to France herself and working as a telephone operator. So interesting to hear about women’s roles!
Their love story is beautiful and so powerful set against this harrowing backdrop. Their letters give us glimpses into their personalities and lives as they come to rely more and more on each other. I love that their friendship is strengthen through their letters and we get to see so many sides to their individual stories. SPOILER!! I absolutely love the ending as Evie and Tom finally admit their deep love for each other. I love that Evie’s Christmas letter is delivered late and how Tom finally admits his feelings for her. I love that he drops everything to come help her and they are finally reunited for good. It’s so clever how we get that climax in letter form as well. I enjoyed the ongoing return to Paris years later as we learn about the details about different characters after the war. There is a beautiful balance of light and darkness, joy and tragedy, duty and heart, war and peace in this novel. I absolutely loved the journey and getting to know these brilliant characters.
A fantastic novel! I would love to read more from both of these authors. A favorite of the year for sure!
What are some of your favorite wartime novels?
Any WWI novel fans out there? What books are your must reads in this time period?