Last Christmas in Paris has gone straight into my top reads of this year. It’s a book which I was desperate to read from when I first saw the publicity start to appear – I mean, how beautiful and atmospheric is that cover? I must thank Kelly at LoveBooksGroup blog for giving me a loan of her copy – I might give you it back Kelly!
There was always a fair chance I was going to like this book as it ticked so many boxes for me: the story unfolded through letters, it takes place mostly during the First World War, at its heart is romance, the romantic city of Paris features and also Christmas. But I didn’t realise quite how much the story and characters would capture my heart. It tells the story of Evie and her brother Will and Will’s best friend Tom as they face the horrors of World War One. It’s not giving anything away to tell you that the story begins with a very elderly and failing Tom travelling for one ‘Last Christmas in Paris’. The three had always planned to spend Christmas in Paris when the war was over but now there is only Tom left. Taking with him the letters from the girl he fell in love with during the war, he plans to open the very last letter she ever wrote to him while in Paris.
This is a book which touched me emotionally and left me a teary mess on the bus as I read the final chapters. I shed tears for characters who had become vividly real to me as I read the book. The book appealed to me on many levels. I am always fascinated not just by how the men who went off to fight coped with the horrors they encountered daily but, also by how those left at home coped with daily life. Evie was an excellent character who brought this to life through her letters. Aware of her privileged lifestyle, she became determined to do her bit to help the war effort. The anxiety and despair of waiting while not hearing from loved ones was clear. It must have been so awful hearing about the fighting in the newspapers, waiting and waiting for a letter from the front while dreading the arrival of a telegram with all that might signify. I was really surprised by just how much was being sent to and from France by post during the war, not just letters but also small yet useful gifts such as socks and gloves. It is incredible to think that during a time of such awful fighting, there were still dedicated people making sure that as many as possible letters and parcels did get through.
I was very intrigued that two authors had co-written this book and have to say they have done so remarkably well. I would love to know how this collaborative writing process worked, whether they wrote separate characters or worked together on it all. The voices of the various characters were certainly very distinctive and it was easy to get a feel of their different characteristics. Evie was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the character I felt most drawn to. I loved her determination and courage as well as her eloquent writing.
With apologies to all the other authors whose Christmas books I’ve read so far, I highly recommend that if you only read one Christmas book this year you make it this one. Although, having said that the book isn’t just a Christmas story. Spanning the whole of World War One and beyond it is just the most beautiful, romantic and touching story and could easily be read at any time of the year. So if you don’t have time to read it right now, get a hold of copy anyway and read it when you have time to curl up and savour it.
Last Christmas in Paris is published in all formats by William Morrow Books. It should be available in all good bookshops or you can order a copy online here: Last Christmas in Paris.
From the back of the book
New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.
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…