Paris Echo

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Member Reviews

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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Sebastian Faulks writes exceedingly well and this historical novel is another example of that. The Moroccan lead character is believable and careful research is evident everywhere. It deals with war history of Paris and with the later period as France finds itself post its colonial troubles. It drags in the middle with too much detail of the war stories of a few individuals but the overall effect is evocative.
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Hidden histories...									4 stars

Two strangers in Paris for very different reasons meet, and through them the reader is taken to two important parts of France’s past – the Nazi occupation of France and France’s own colonial occupation of Algeria. Hannah is a post-doctoral student, in Paris to research a chapter for a book on women’s experiences during the Nazi occupation. Tariq is a 19-year-old from Morocco, who has left his comfortable home to try to find out more about his mother, a Frenchwoman who died when he was an infant. 

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I knew very little about either of the parts of history Faulks discusses, and found them interesting and well written, with a feeling of having been well researched. On the other hand, the whole framing device of Hannah and Tariq and their experiences is completely unconvincing – so much so that I had to jump over an almost insurmountable credibility barrier before the book had got properly underway.

I’ll get my criticisms out of the way first, then. Hannah has just arrived in Paris, on her own, when she comes across a homeless girl in the street, a complete stranger, who appears to be ill. So she takes her back to her flat, looks after her, leaves her there while she goes out to work and doesn’t mind when the girl moves a friend in – Tariq. Well, that’s all lovely, and nobody robs her or trashes the place and Tariq becomes the perfect lodger. But. Seriously? It simply would never happen, unless Hannah was nuts and we’re not led to believe that she is. Nor did I feel that a young man in Paris for the first adventure of his life would want to spend his time living with a thirty-something landlady. 

The other thing that jarred was Faulks attempt to bring a kind of ghostly vibe into the story, as each becomes consumed by the history they are researching. I could have accepted it if there were only one of them – one could have put it down to overwork, stress, over-active imagination, etc. But both beginning to see and hear people and events from the past? Partly my problem with this was that it reminded me a little of how Hari Kunzru brought the past into the present supernaturally in White Tears, and that comparison worked to Faulks’ disadvantage, since Kunzru did it so much more effectively.

But once Faulks begins to let us hear the stories of the women during the Occupation, his storytelling rests on much firmer grounds. He does this by having Hannah listen to tapes made as a kind of living history project, when the women were elderly and looking back at their experiences. I found these stories compelling and often moving, and they carried me through my problems with the framing story. He is making the point that this is a period which France prefers not to examine too closely and tends to somewhat distort by suggesting that most people were either actively or passively resisting the Germans. Faulks suggests that in fact most people were willing to go along with whoever looked like they’d be the winner – their over-riding desire was to not have the same massive loss of life as in WW1 and they didn’t think much more deeply than that. It was only after the tide of war turned against Germany that women were vilified for associating with the German soldiers – Faulks suggests that before that it was commonplace and most people weren’t overly concerned about it.

The other side of the historical aspect – France’s troubled relationship with Algeria – isn’t done quite so well, with an awful lot of info-dumping. However, since I didn’t know a lot of the info I still found it interesting reading. Faulks is obviously comparing the two episodes as opposite sides of occupation, but I felt that was a little simplistic. More interesting was the comparison of how both events are downplayed in France – a hidden past that, Faulks seems to be suggesting, must come fully into the light before France can reconcile itself with its own history and properly understand its present.

I rather wish that, instead of having the present day framing and the double history, Faulks had simply taken us back to the days of the Occupation and told a straightforward story of the women caught up in events. Somehow, the art of plain storytelling seems to be considered old-fashioned at the moment, and books become unnecessarily complex as a result, laying themselves open, as this one does, to having parts that work and parts that don’t. Overall, the good outweighed the less good for me with this one, but I feel it could have been excellent had it been more simply told. Nevertheless, recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Cornerstone.
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This is an atmospheric book about life in Paris in the present day and in the 1940s. The present day strand revolves around various immigrants and visitors to the city but also their exploration of the history of the city. Some of the 1940s tale resonated with "Paris at War" which I read some time ago via NetGalley. An interesting read which poses some moral questions.
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Tariq, a young Moroccan, runs away to Paris to find his mother and lose his virginity.  There he meets Hannah, an American researching the lives of women in Paris under German occupation.
I found the quick shifts in narration a little confusing and the sudden entrance and exit of some characters just plot filler.  I did however find the description of Paris enthralling and the history very educational.
Not always a comfortable read but well written as you would expect from this author.
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Another thought provoking and very different ride through modern France and the immigration crisis. A different era for fans of Sébastien Faulks but filled with his usual prose and style
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There is a certain pace and rhythm that comes with a novel from Sebastian Faulks and this is no different, slow and measured, sometimes ponderous and frustrating. The characters of Tariq and Hannah are well developed and this book is clearly written by someone who knows and loves Paris.

The Paris of Hannah the American on the run from a broken heart and the Paris of Tariq a migrant from Africa intersect via Sandrine who's character fizzles out. 

Interesting book historically and a must for those who have loved Birdsong and Charlotte Gray
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One of the great writers of today, Faulks takes us to modern France where an American historian, Hannah, is researching the lives of women in Paris during the occupation. 
She finds herself with an unexpected lodger in the form of Moroccan teenager Tariq, whose twin ambitions are to lose his virginity and find out about his Paris-born mother. 
They form a mutually supportive friendship that allows Faulks to capture the immigrant experience and a general human need to belong, whether to a time, a place or a family. 
The book is sometimes dark, sometimes funny with as many ghostly characters as living. 
Faulks’ exploration of the complexities of attitudes in France during WWII towards the Germans, Jews and the resistance, shines a light on some of the lesser known heroes, heroines and horrors of that era.
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A story told between two people Hannah who has come to Paris to research the woman of Paris during German occupation.  Tariq, a teenager has run away from his home in Morroco for an adventure and to discover his french roots.

I loved their current stories - two very different people most unlikely to be sharing a home.  I truly enjoyed the historical back stories of the women in German occupied Paris.  Fascinating and heartbreaking tales.  A slow start but then the story comes together so well for a really stunning read.
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Tariq is 19 when he finds his Moroccan home too small, too far away from the real world. Paris is the place he wants to be, not just because of the dreams of the city of lights he has, but also to follow his deceased mother’s traces who was born and raised there. On his way, he meets a young girl and together they arrive in the French capital without any place to stay or any idea of how to earn money. Hannah, an American researcher twice their age, accommodates them; what was meant as an arrangement just for a couple of days becomes a cohabitation for months in which Tariq not only discovers that he is not only ignorant of Europe’s history, but also of the struggles between France and its former colonies in northern Africa. But also Hannah not only makes progress in her work on women in the second World War, but also in her personal love life.

I was eager to read Sebastian Fault’s novel because seeing the French history through the eyes of a Moroccan teenager seemed to be quite an interesting perspective. The author certainly has chosen quite a unique approach to history, since it is mainly strangers who do not actually have a family bond or personal connection to what has happened and thus, can look at things a bit more freely. 

What I liked best was actually Tariq’s education through the metro, especially since he didn’t learn because he was told to, but because he felt a need and wanted to. This informal kind of education lead to a lot more depth than any formal teaching could ever have provided. And it clearly showed that this kind of knowledge has a certain relevance in everyday life and it not just dusty knowledge of no practical use. 

Even though the whole set-up of the novel was not really authentic – which middle-aged American woman would ever house a refugee in her expensive Parisian flat and how could a Moroccan teenager move around Paris without ever being eyed closely by the police or the people around him – I enjoyed reading it, especially since the narration of the past events was much more inspiring than the plot set in the present.
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I am a big fan of Sebastian Faulks and Birdsong is one of my all time favourite books.  However, Paris Echo did not really do it for me.  It was well written and I liked the glimpses back to the war years through the voices of the women who were there.   But For me it was a lot of words for not a lot of story involving the main characters Tariq and Hannah.
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Sebastian Faulks does not disappoint once again.  A story of a 19 year old Moroccan runaway who finds himself in Paris - in his eyes, a city of wonderment and beauty and his subsequent link with Hannah, an American academic who is doing research on women who lived through the German Occupation in France.  

Written in the first person, they have their own stories to tell and they are fascinating and gripping.

I would highly recommend this book, particularly to Book Reading Groups.

With thanks to Net Galley.

Maureen Haltrecht
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I was sent a copy of Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks to read and review by NetGalley.
I really enjoyed this book, it had all the hallmarks we’ve come to expect from a Sebastian Faulks novel.  Eloquent prose, historical fact and a real sense of time and place.  I loved the way this novel slipped through time giving the story a different element rather than the usual present/past chapter formation.  I did get a bit frustrated that it wasn’t always immediately evident whose viewpoint a particular chapter was from – the two protagonists, Tariq and Hannah, both written in the first person – but perhaps that was the author’s intention.  The other thing that I’m afraid I always find with Sebastian Faulks’ novels is that I feel that the ending is rather weak and overexplained.  He also has a tendency for them to be finished off with a sort of unnecessary lyrical flourish, generally out of keeping with the tone of the novel itself. But that is my own personal opinion which I know is not held by many, if any other readers that I know!  Despite my thoughts on the closing chapters I have no qualms about recommending Paris Echo as a good read.
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Paris Echo follows Hannah, an American researcher returning to Paris where she spent time as a student and Tariq, a Moroccan student searching for a different life in Paris. Hannah's attitudes are shaped by her previous time in France, remaining scarred from her relationship with a Russian poet. Her research is looking at the experiences of the women of Paris during WW2. Tariq smuggles himself into and across France looking for girls and a different life, but also to learn more about his French born mother. They meet and share Hannah's flat and despite totally different personalities and backgrounds develop a strong relationship.
Hannah's story explores not only the experiences of Parisian women but looks at some of the unexpected French 'complicities' during the war and some of the motivations behind this as well as the role her previous visit to Paris had on her life.
Tariq's tale looks at the relationship of Muslim immigrants to Paris both in the past and present through his research on his mother, work colleagues and his Metro friend, Victor Hugo.
They both have a naivety that both frustrates and endears: Tariq is a survivor but has little insight into emotion and relationships whilst Hannah is smart, intelligent but not worldly and a product of previous relationships.
Beautifully written, following the changes Paris brings to both characters, this is a really good read, bringing insight into little explored historical events.
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Hannah is in Paris, researching for a feature she's writing on the women of Paris in the war years; Tariq is in Paris, following a tortuous journey from Africa, with the mission of learning more about his mother and the city she was born in.

It's not long before Hannah and Tariq's paths cross, and he becomes her lodger. Together they explore the figures of the women of the past, and pursue the echoes these figures leave across the city, while discovering individually where they both belong.

Another beautiful piece of writing from Sebastian Faulks, who always delivers well crafted characters and places.
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