“Under Madame’s tutelage in the little flower shop, Claire somehow became inspired–driven. The labor was a challenge, the product ephemeral. But this simple art had become her barricade against the growing darkness.”
Lynn Sheene, The Last Time I Saw Paris
Lynn Sheene’s debut novel, THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS, was published in May of 2011 and is 354 pages. I heard about the novel on Twitter and when I saw that Ms. Sheene and I had the same agent, I figured I’d probably enjoy the book. I was not disappointed.
THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS begins just before World War II in New York City, where socialite Claire Stone lives a life of wealth, glamour, and misery. As a former farm girl, she has scratched and clawed her way out of poverty, but has compromised her soul to do so. When her past comes back to haunt her, she must flee New York and her dangerous husband. She ends up in Paris in search of an old lover and a new start, and with the intent of resuming her quest for wealth at any cost.
As soon as Claire lands in Europe, she finds herself on a continent at the brink of war. The Paris of her dreams becomes a nightmare under Nazi occupation, and her old lover is not only married, but tied up to a group of French citizens involved in a resistance effort. As Claire tries to survive, she finds a job in an old flower shop with a generous, dignified Parisian, Madame Palain, whose recognition of Claire’s talents inspires Claire to work hard and reassess her idea of happiness.
It isn’t long before Claire becomes entangled in the dangerous network of resistance spies. She is tested in all areas of life and love, and while she makes mistakes along the way, her tremendous courage and loyalty saves lives.
WWII has so many hidden stories and Sheene has created an original and fascinating look at that time in history. Her prose is fearless and engaging, and her protagonist is complex. Claire’s transformation is one of the most satisfying and complete that I’ve ever read, and I didn’t want the book to end.
Fans of Jenna Blum’s THOSE WHO SAVE US or Mararet Leroy’s THE SOLDIER’S WIFE will love THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS.
For more on Lynn Sheene or on the novel, visit her website at http://lynnsheene.com/ .