Paris Echo

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Member Reviews

In the past I have read all of Sebastian Faulks books and thoroughly enjoyed them soiloomed forward to Paris Echo. Unfortunately, I have been disappointed as I found this book difficult to get into and to follow. Not for me on this occasion.
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Tariq's journey starts in Tangier and takes him to Paris; he's running away. He's running from life being difficult and, like many teenagers, thinks he knows best. It takes him to Paris where he learns as much about himself as he does about the city, its people and its history.
Hannah too is running away; from a failed, abusive relationship - and from the risky possibility of having to trust someone else.. She immerses herself in her work, researching the stories of women in Paris during the German occupation. These echoes from the past impact the present, and the futures, of both Tariq and Hannah in this beautifully crafted story.
This is a book about changing perspectives; about seeing ourselves, and others, in a new way. Mirrors and reflections, past and present and the way events weave in and out of each other are a theme too. As in other books by the author that I have read, Faulks likes to show the reader how much research he has done and how knowledgeable he is. I sometimes find that this detracts from the narrative of the plot. However, I did really enjoy this novel and will recommend it to others.
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Paris, in novels, is frequently just the background setting for yet another love story. Not so with Paris Echo, which has characters whose love affair is primarily with the city and its history, albeit tentative personal relationships drift in and out of focus as the storyline develops.  Tariq [from Algeria]  and Hannah [a research student from America], by a twist of fate end up sharing a flat in a central arrondissement. Two more different characters would be hard to imagine but, whilst their relationship is strictly platonic, they share a burning need to discover something from their time there.  Tariq is really out to discover himself through being independent in a city he has long dreamt of visiting, whilst Hannah needs to research Paris' wartime history for a chapter in a research project. Faulks gradually intertwines the life of this mismatched couple and ultimately their interdependence allows each to each help the other onto a future path. It takes great writing skill to prevent Paris becoming the story - it is so iconic - but Faulks does so brilliantly. As a result, we readers learn how it's geography and history can change and shape lives - yet another reason to visit this unique city.
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This is a puzzling novel, not entirely successful in its voices and devices, but brimming with Sebastian Faulks’s deep affection for Paris. 

This new novel by the 'Birdsong' author, about a Moroccan teenage runaway and a thirty-something American academic meeting in Paris, doesn't quite live up to its promise. Faulks has two central protagonists: 19-year-old Tariq, a runaway from Morocco; and the 31-year-old American postdoc researcher, Hannah, whose box room Tariq ends up lodging in. Hannah is in Paris to examine the testimonies of women who lived through the German occupation. Tariq, meanwhile, has some vague idea of finding out more about his mother’s history. She died when he was 10, but was brought up in Paris, born to a French father and an Algerian mother. 

His outsider’s interest in quirky street names and quaint corners transports his readers there too. And in the end, the book is powered by his ambition to evoke that place, its ghostliness, those spectres of history, lurking around every beautiful avenue. Although this is an illuminating lesson in Paris’s history, Faulks’s legendary storytelling is disappointingly swamped by his pursuit of ideas.
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An American woman, Hannah, pays a return visit to Paris and a young Moroccan, Tariq, runs away to Paris and somehow their paths cross. Both are searching for the past. I enjoyed the historical element, especially the women's stories from World War 2 but essentially, this book is about the two protaganists coming-of-age. I was frustrated that Hannah and Tariq didn't connect more as they could have helped each other in their searching. This was two separate stories that touched occasionally because they were in the same book.
Although both Hannah and Tariq's stories do come to a resolution, it was hard to tell if there would be future contact between them as they go their separate ways at the end. For  myself, I like to escape when I'm reading a story, which means a climatic ending so this book was not really for me.
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Tariq is a Moroccan teenager, sexually frustrated and looking for adventure he decides to travel to Paris, former home of his long-dead mother and a city he is obsessed with.  Hannah is an American academic who travels to Paris to research the lives of women during the Occupation and to exorcise the ghost of an unsatisfactory love affair from her last visit ten years before.  Tariq is an innocent abroad, he knows nothing of the famous French that his beloved Metro stations are named after, but his eyes are opened to two sad events, the deportation of the Parisian Jews from Drancy and the massacre of the Algerians several years later.  Hannah finds her life intertwined with the stories of the women she is researching.
Many reviewers say that this is not Faulks' finest book, it may well not be, but a lesser offering from Faulks is still better than most other books published!  I loved this book and am prepared to forgive the slightly confusing elements because it is such an emotional story.  I ended it wanting to know more about the plight of the Algerians under Pappon, a tale that is glossed over in French history.  Faulks is a wonderful writer, he draws the reader in with emotional power until the reader really cares about the characters and then is hit with the bigger message.  I don't think this is one of Faulks' weaker books, it is just wonderful.
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This is the type of novel that some will definitely hate and others will love and then there's the group, like me, who shrug and say sure, I liked it. Is it thoroughly implausibly over the top sometimes? Yes (Tariq is implausibly lucky/ignorant, Hannah has a remarkable amount of power for her position. Faulks uses a fairly implausible coincidence to bring them together.) There's a lot of research on show here-Faulks likes history and tells you all about it to make a Paris that is a palimpsest of all of its history (which of course, it is) whose layers bleed in each other. It's a great idea with decent, entertaining delivery.
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The book tells the story of two immigrants in Paris. Tariq comes from North Africa in search of his mother's story. Hannah is an American post-graduate researching the role of women in the French resistance. Despite their wildly different backgrounds and a shaky start, their stories intertwine and they develop a lasting friendship. The book touches on history, colonialism, racism, feminism and radicalism; quite a heavy load. But it's presented in a readable way with fascinating insights into some very diverse areas of Paris. The two main characters are flawed but likeable. The detailed accounts of the lives of women during the second world war are captivating and I particularly liked that they were not romanticised but offered a more realistic account of what people had to do to survive and the lengths they would go to to save themselves.
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In parts, beautifully written and the historical facts were captivating. A little over written, particularly in the middle and didn't quite hold my attention enough to keep me reading this book rather than others I had also started.
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This novel wasn't for me I'm afraid. I struggled from the first page but didn't end up enjoying it. I love some of Faulks' other workes like the awesome 'Birdsong' and 'Engleby.' Faulks' writing skill is undeniable and he evokes a special atmosphere of Paris in 'Paris Echo.' However, I didn't feel empathy and understanding for the characters that I have known and loved in his other novels.

Maybe the echo is too reverberant in this work
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This book has 2 narrators - Hannah, an American academic living in Paris and Tariq, a 19 year old North African immigrant who sneaks into Paris to find out about his dead mother’s history. I found both narrations engaging and informative, I learned a lot about the German occupation of France from Hannah, but it was Tariq’s story I enjoyed most. He was almost a blank sheet, soaking up experiences as he went along and I learned a great deal about the immigrant population of Paris along with him.
Hannah and Tariqs meeting and subsequent relationship as landlady and lodger, has been described as improbable but these random encounters do happen in life.
I would like to thank the publisher Cornerstone and who gave me a free digital copy of this book in return for an honest and unbiased review.
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A delve into the history of Paris during the Nazi occupation as uncovered by a researcher and her young homeless sidekick, Paris Echo tackles the French shame that changed the course of the country.

Alice is an American academic, researching women’s lives during the Second World War, Tariq is a Moroccan teenager who has run away from his humdrum life to find his feet in The City of Lights. After his traveling companion becomes sick he meets Alice and their friendship grows from there.

We're introduced to a Paris that is not often seen, or acknowledged. a Paris of illegal immigrants, homeless, and the moldier shades that tourists like to ignore. This isn't the Paris of cafe's and high-end boutiques, this is the Paris that lingers on the edge, where life is hard and swathed in a perpetual fug of weed.

There's no escaping realism here, though the most interesting aspect was Alice's research. There's nothing original in the angle of the story told by the protagonist's research, but it brings to the for the shame shouldered by the French and the atrocities carried out during the Paris occupation. If you want to learn about the French lives lived during the war but don't fare well with history books I'd recommend this as a fictional side step into the subject. 

What did jar, however, was the way in which Faulks brought his characters together. It seemed unreasonable to expect me to believe that Alice would do anything other than excuse herself when confronted by a sick homeless person (Tariq's traveling partner Sandrine). It was harder to believe she would take her up to her flat, and beggared belief that she would then leave her alone when she went to work. It was a struggle to get passed the point where, on returning home, Sandrine had brought Tariq back to the apartment and Alice ends up allowing him to stay there with Sandrine. I don't know, perhaps that says more about me - though it seems that any half decent person would call an ambulance and that would be that.

Paris Echo was a snapshot of the lives of two strangers, our protagonists Alice and Tariq. It was like sitting on a bench and seeing briefly into the lives of people as they passed by. It wasn’t an unpleasant read, nor a disturbing one, though I did find myself asking - about halfway through - is this it? It’s a meander down the river accompanied by two people who aren’t particularly interesting, and yet they are compelling enough to see through to the end. 

Perhaps Faulks isn’t for me, I like to be gripped by a story - I see books as worlds in which we would like to escape - but there’s no intrigue here, not that I could fathom anyway. 

I started to suspect I was too stupid to understand Paris Echo, that there was some great underlying meaning that was evading me. I even had a dream after putting the book down one night in which I came up with some overly ambitious symbolisation for the plot, though I can’t remember it now. I might be wrong, but I think I was looking too hard for an explanation and trying to find an intrigue that wasn’t there. 

For well rounded characters and well researched detail you can look no further than Faulks. It's a big deal on the literary scene when he publishes something new, but this is no page turner. It's neither dry nor boring, but little different than listening to a friend tell you about their week. You listen because you care about them, not because you're waiting for a big reveal or twist at the end. That's what I came away from Paris Echo feeling; I'd just spent a while listening to a couple of people tell me what they'd been up to over the last couple of months. To be fair their lives (especially Tariq's) were far removed from my own, and that in itself was intrigue enough to take me to the final page.

I struggled with this book, truth be told - and the awkward romance between Alice and Julian didn't help at all. That aside, if you like Faulks I think you'll like Paris Echo.

Faulks lovers:

Faulks give-or-takers:
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A novel set in Paris. An American researcher and an illegal immigrant meet and surprisingly result in sharing an apartment. 
Besides reaching the role of women in WW2 Hannah continually reminisces about her love affair 10 years previously.
The main story is diluted by lots of information about the metro stations and their names and various other facts about Paris.
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Although the writing of this book was excellent (as expected) I found the plot to be a bit improbable. Tariq did not really look for his Parisian mother and would an academic really offer a homeless girl to stay in her flat. Not one of his best.
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Paris is the focus which draws people in. American Hannah returns to follow through some research, having lived in the city previously as a younger student. Tariq aims for Paris, disillusioned with his home in Morocco. Tariq leaves without a penny (or Euro) and a very sketchy plan. All he knows is that his Mother was from Paris and he wants to see her city. Linking up with another hitchhiker, Tariq and Sandrine manage a lift to Paris from a lorry driver and then have to survive on their wits and the goodwill of others. Hannah is one showing goodwill and lets the pair into her life with few questions or qualms. Hannah at times admires Tariq's ignorance. Tariq only sometimes realises the gaps in his knowledge and feels compelled to rectify this. Yet they need one another to help provide context and street knowledge to answer the questions they ask themselves.
They see the city from two different viewpoints, with another perspective added when Hannah's research takes her back to the memories of wartime German Occupation. The characters are each developed, yet struggle with life at times - so the reader can identify with each at different times.

The novel is written in eloquent prose and conveys the sense of historical gravity of the women during the German Occupation as well as the myriad aspects of modern day Paris. Faulks obviously knows Paris well and after reading the novel I wanted to visit and explore. However I felt I had missed significant points that Faulks was nudging the reader towards. I ended up feeling more ignorant than enlightened, but at least aware of the unknown history that surrounds us.
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A serious amount of research has gone into this book. The setting is perfect. A little bit of a quirky book, but different and enjoyable nonetheless. REcommended.
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This was an interesting book.I love Paris having been there as a teenager .This story was really good but the start had a rude part.Hannah and tirag  were interesting characters.It was a good read around .
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As a fan of Faulks, I think I set my expectations high. Whilst this is beautifully written, I found myself bored. Strange, when the subject matter is interesting. When does doing what you need to do in order to survive become collaboration? Some parts were very interesting but I had little interest in Tariq and Hannah. I think I’d have preferred the story to centre in the women Hannah was researching. 
My thanks to Netgalley but I was a bit disappointed with this.
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Something was lacking in this novel. Sebastian Faulks’ soul perhaps?

Tariq, nineteen, lives in Morocco with his father and step-mother. On a whim, he decides to leave college midway during the term and hitch a ride to Paris, supposedly to look for his mother who was French. He meets up with another young runaway, Sandrine, who had been found by Hannah in a state of collapse.  Once Sandrine has recovered and continued her journey to England, Tariq manages to become Hannah’s lodger,

Hannah, an American, has come to Paris to study tapes made by women who lived through the occupation of France during WW2. Some are still alive and with Tariq being more fluent in French than she is, she gets him to help her interview a couple of these now very elderly women. 

I loved Tariq and his youthfulness and ambition; his dreams and sheer cheek and inquisitiveness to discover all that is Paris; the people, the places and the Metro; how stations are named after famous people or events – this helps him understand the history of France.

Hannah, on the other hand, is a generous soul (as we see from her taking in Sandrine – the young girl who has collapsed with a fever on her doorstep), yet full of contradictions and insecurities. Thanks to her work, we learn the history of several of the women who either decided to just carry on and accept the Germans or take up the fight and become part of the Resistance Movement. In fact, I think this is what in some ways made me continue to read this book, the stories of these brave women who were heroes in the real sense of the word. 

Unfortunately, the book seemed to merely ramble without any path. I found it hard to concentrate and felt like I was never going to reach the end. Such a shame, because there are historical gems thrown in which I would have liked to have heard more about. 


Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.
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A hymn to Paris.  This is the perfect novel for anyone who has ever walked her streets and felt overcome by the wonder of everything from the song the Metro sings when the doors close, to the intensity of a past that’s crackling in the air all around you.  I fell in love with Tariq and Hannah, Julian and Clemence and felt the stirrings of the will to purge national shame and guilt while reading about Mathilde and visiting Drancy.  I loved everything about this and know I will read it again and again.
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