Title: The Paris Affair
Publisher: 16th September 2022 by HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter
Pages: 376 pages
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 5 cups
Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone. Nurse Edith Cavell, on the eve of her execution, 1915
Scarred by his experiences in World War I, German doctor, Sebastian Braun lives a quiet life tending to his patients and his beloved garden. Until Sophie Hathaway bursts into his life and challenges his dearly-held beliefs. And just at the moment Sebastian discovers love for the first time war is on the horizon once again, threatening not just his peace of mind…
As the Germans approach the Channel Islands, Sebastian has to make choices: be the peace-loving man he has become or stand up and fight for his principles? When he and Sophie are separated, Sebastian is left realising love may have eluded him forever. Until a chance meeting in Paris sets the wheels in motion for a dangerously devastating love affair.
Set against the backdrop of World War II, The Paris Affair is a poignant story, beautifully told of love, loss and the resilience of the human spirit.
The Paris Affair is a brilliant read for many reasons - Melanie’s books just keep getting better and better! Her writing has gone to the next level with prose and ideas that really touched me. I was swept away by her research told through a main character that was so unique for this genre and time.
‘What once brought so much joy, peace and a sense of completeness, was lost to me, perhaps because I knew–oh how I knew–that my little place of paradise would be lost to me soon, and that one way or another, my freedom and my absolute sense of being home would be gone.’
Set in WW2 Sebastian is in prison awaiting execution. During this time, he tells his life story to the prison priest, which transports the reader to many places - the Channel Island of Sark, the Cornwall coast and, yes Paris, but how I wish the book had been titled something different as I believe it does not do it justice and could steer potential readers away. To my mind, this is not a book about Paris or an affair. This is a book that spoke to my soul - Sebastian, spoke to my soul!
‘… in Sark I had been the ‘Good Doctor’ and then Sophie had called me ‘the Generous Gardener’, but to the authorities, none of this mattered because my place of birth marked me as the enemy, and so my life was reduced to nothing. I was reduced to nothing.’
Narrated from the first person perspective, Sebastian Braun is a German veteran of the First World War and has made a new life for himself on the island of Sark. You quickly become his advocate with his endearing nature and incredible understanding of life and the people in it. He is a complex man who, changed by the horrors he witnessed in WWI, wants nothing to do with this new war. His wish is to stay in his remote refuge and tend his garden - a well-educated doctor and deep thinker. Yes, there is romance that develops Sebastian’s character arc but the mysterious Sophie and invading Nazis are about to turn his life upside down.
‘You must also know how angry I am that a wonderful, kind man who wants and knows only peace, who would never hurt a soul, is forced to choose either one awful situation or the other.’
The Paris Affair is quality WWII historical fiction - something special. If you are looking for that something extra, that next level - a story within a story - look no further. Philosophically flavoured for quiet contemplation, a dash of mystery and romance, with an ending that I simply did not see coming is what sees me recommending that this is a book not to be missed.
‘My life, looked at in such a way, has been hell. But speaking with you, I have found that if I write my story in another way, if I spin the yarn with a lighter thread, I can only conclude that I have been blessed.’
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.