Monday, 22 April 2019

April In Paris by Michael Wallner

April In Paris by Michael Wallner
First published in German in Germany by Luchterhand Literaturverlag in 2006. English language translation by John Cullen published by John Murray in 2007.

How I got this book:
Received a copy in a publisher's giveaway

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When people on Paris's bustling streets look at Michael Roth, they see little more than a Parisian student, a quietly spoken young man with a book under his arm, handsome but guarded. What they do not realize is that he is carrying a painful secret, one that he cannot even reveal to the woman he loves.

For Michael is no ordinary Frenchman but a German. He has been sent to Paris to assist the Nazis in dealing with Resistance fighters. Desperate to escape his daily life, he steals into the world of the oppressed Parisians, and into the path of Chantal. But as Michael falls for the bookseller's beautiful daughter, he discovers that a person's past always catches up with them. Soon he will be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice and choose between his country, his life and his destiny.

Daring, romantic and of exceptional quality, April in Paris is an extraordinary love story which will stay with you long after its final pages.

April In Paris is billed as a wartime love story, but it is a novel with surprisingly little romance between the two characters, Michael and Chantal. Wallner instead shows how Michael's belief in his love for Chantal, a woman he barely knows, is actually fuelled by his love of his idea of himself as someone completely different from reality. Michael is a bilingual Wehrmacht Corporal who finds himself working as a translator during SS interrogations. His regular metamorphosis into French student Antoine is his escape from these daily scenes of brutality and I appreciated how Wallner depicts this duality in his personality. As readers we get to see scenes of wartime Paris both from the German and the Parisian perspective which is interesting.

I found April In Paris to be a very readable novel which I happily polished off in a couple of sittings. The narrative isn't particularly unusual and, although it kept my interest throughout, I could usually guess the outline of where the story would go. There are harrowing descriptions of torture, some of which I wish I could unread, so readers of a more squeamish disposition might want to give this one a miss. However, otherwise, April In Paris is a good addition to the WWII genre.

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  1. Too much torture would be a turn off for me.

    1. Definitely a case of less is more for this novel

  2. I love books set in Paris but it definitely sounds like the war story is what is the most prominent thing in this book. Paris has been in the news a lot of the time lately with the Notre Dame news so this is quite the timely review :)

    1. Wallner does evoke wartime Paris very well. I could easily imagine being there - although I am glad I wasn't!