Paris Echo

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Confession time: I have never read a Sebastian Faulks novel.  Not even Birdsong, which everyone my age seemed to read during A’Levels as it seemed to cover lots of the War Poets and all that area of history and literature.  I found it to be stuffy and a bit dull, if I remember rightly. Filled with adult thoughts and abstract themes.  I tried and failed to read Charlotte Gray as even at 16, the most tumultuous time of life, it was a bit too angsty for me.

“Paris, Echo” fitted my bill as it has a city in the title. Honestly, it’s also quite short so I thought if I was going to have another go it’d be a good idea to do with as few pages as possible!

It starts with Tariq, a teenage boy obsessed with two things: himself and having sex with a woman.  He runs away to Paris via a largely undisclosed route, he ends up in the back of a lorry with a French girl who gets them to Paris and then gets sick. Tariq’s voice is distinctive – narcissistic and naïve.  It’s quite fun to be him for a while, and the descriptions of the different parts of Paris are vivid enough to be interesting.

Just as I was getting tired of Tariq’s quest for losing his virginity, the voice switches to Hannah. She’s an American in Paris on a historical academic research assignment. She’s lonely, and returns to Paris in an attempt to rediscover the last time she was happy, nearly two decades previous.

The two meet and Tariq becomes her lodger. I thought this was a bit of a jarring moment – perhaps I’m not as kind as Hannah but I would not feel comfortable taking in a couple of teens from the street, especially sick ones. Maybe I should be nicer, as it works well for Hannah. Together the two of them become friends, and their separate explorations of Paris as a city now and then intertwine and overlap in a fascinating way.

There is so much history all around us and it’s easy to forget as we walk down the street in our daily lives that other people have lived, loved and died in these buildings, in the ones there previously.  Living in Norwich especially, we are surrounded by history that dates back more than 1000 years. One thousand years! Nestled between Wilkos and Iceland, that bit of wall from the 9th century. 

We learn from history and Tariq and Hannah draw their own conclusions from the brush with the past they have. Talking to an old woman from the resistance, Hannah is awed by her experiences. Tariq is dismissive as he can speak better French than Hannah – he is appalled by the old woman’s coarse vernacular. I enjoyed the intersection between judgements – what was perceived, what happened and how they reacted separately.

This was a good introduction to Faulks and I might well try to read Birdsong again at some point. A nice distraction and interesting to read – a good way to pass the time.

Thanks to Netgalley for giving me access to a copy.
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Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks sounded like an interesting book. Alas, I found myself not especially engrossed in the tale. I ended up giving up the book, thinking I would give it another try later on. In truth, I will never get back to it. Some books are just not my cup of coffee!
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I am a great admirer of Sebastian Faulks's novels, but this one I found disappointing. The fractured timeline wasn't always easy to follow, and I found the characters were difficult to connect with. It is fine to have unfinished stories and plot lines in a literary novel, but there seemed too many in this one. Sandrine simply faded away and I wondered why she was even necessary. Faulks is one of the greatest contemporary war story novelists alive today but perhaps this rich vein has run dry for him. I hope not, but even if it has, he can write almost anything well.
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It's a while since I read one of Sebastian Faulks' books so I was pleased to receive an ARC thanks to Net Galley and the publisher .This book isn't a big hitter like 'Birdsong' or 'Charlotte Gray' but it deals in part with the theme of women in wartime ,as they did.
The story is told through two characters, Tariq, a young Moroccan,  and Hannah,an American academic. Tariq enters France illegally ,aiming to try and find out about his half French' mother,who died when he was a child.Hannah is researching the lives of Parisian women in during the German occupation.The two form a friendship, and the book deals with their relationship but also with the story of the women Hannah researches.
It's an interesting depiction of a side of Paris that' not many of us see,and the experience Tariq both Hannah and Tariq have as outsiders. The wartime stories of women's lives are fascinating.
I enjoyed reading 'Paris Echo' and was particularly impressed with the descriptions of Paris that are well away from the touristy picture that most of  us have. The characters are well drawn and credible.
I would recommend this novel .
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I love this author, he tells a good tale while ensuring the reader is moving along with the setting and the characters.

Hannah is in Paris researching the lives of women in Paris during the German war.

Her story includes her traumas and along with the story of Tariq and the reasons why he is in Paris this turns into a story with much emotion.

This is a stunning read and while I had to remind myself of what I had read it is one of those books that you must talk about and one that leaves the reader contemplating about their lives and those around them
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Hannah and Tariq go to Paris for different reasons,he leaves Algeria in search of information regarding his Parisian mother, she goes to research the women's roles in WW2. Tariq fails in his  quest but discovers what is important to him . Hannah moves on from a love affair of her student days .Beautifully written, giving an insight into 2 completely different lives.
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Having read other books by this author I was looking forward to this one and was not disappointed. This tale tells the story of Paris as experienced by women during the occupation of France by the Germans during World War 2. The narrative passes from modern day to the past in rather unusual way in that the past stories are told by the women who lived through this perilous time and they have recorded their memories for future generations to listen to. Another unusual aspect in that the main characters in the book are not French, but an American researcher working on post graduate studies and an Algerian teenager trying to discover the truth about his dead French mother. Normally the two characters would never have met but an unusual set of circumstances put the two together and they learn to live parallel lives with each one helping the other. This is a long book which I thoroughly enjoyed but I did feel that the ending was rather abrupt and left me wanting more hence the reason for only four stars instead of five. 

Many thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for an opportunity to read the book in return for a fair and honest review.
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Although I enjoyed the book I was left with the feeling that I had somehow missed the main point. 
The plot revolves around two strangers who meet each other by chance in Paris. Each of the main characters has their own separate storyline, occasionally coming together for a chapter or two. This is combined with both historical events and characters which weave another thread through the plot, along with present day characters who support the whole. It makes for good but slightly confusing reading. 
The characters are interesting and engaging, with good backstories making them easy to understand. 
The writing is descriptive and brings to life the characters and the scene. It also breathes life into the emotions of each of the characters so that you feel almost that way while reading it, or at the very least can fully understand how they are feeling in the moment.
Although, as I said I'm not sure I really understood the book it was thought provoking and had me pondering on the cyclical nature of life and historical events. Taken at face value it is an interesting, though not particularly earth shattering story, a pleasant and relaxing read. I do feel there is more to it and will probably read it again just to satisfy myself
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This novel has the feel typical of Sebastian Faulkes writing, especially his obvious love of, and attachment to,  Paris.  His descriptions evokes each picture clearly in the reader's mind.  Each cityscape echoes in the minds of the characters in the story.  The city is the link between two distinctly different backgrounds and lives for the two lead characters.  Hannah is a researcher from America and Tariq is a frustrated and curious 19 year old from Morocco.  Hannah is planning to write about women's' experiences during the war era and Tariq hopes to find out more about his mother and her roots.  Irritatingly, he makes little concrete effort to really seek out hard information about her, although he discovers much about the colonial impact of French politics on North African communities.  They are drawn together and somehow manage to help each other on to the next phase of their lives.  The past and present mingle, sometimes quite literally on the page.  The reader is deliberately left wondering how much we need to know, remember or understand about the past in order to lead a meaningful and useful life on the present.
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‘Everything seemed connected to, or shaped by, something else – to an incident long ago, to wider meaning or significance: to history and loss.’

I’m very much a fan of Sebastian Faulks and – finally – I have got to his new book and I have to say I’m sitting on the fence with this one. Whilst it was an engaging read, I couldn’t really connect with the two main characters, Hannah and Tariq. She is a postdoc historian working on research into women during the Occupation of Paris by the Nazis; he is a 19-year-old runaway from Morocco who is, in part, looking for evidence about his half-French mother. The book alternates first-person narratives from the 2 perspectives, which should allow us to connect with the characters but for me there was precious little distinction between the two ‘voices’ and so I always felt at some distance from them. Faulks has clearly done a massive amount of research himself for the book, and it comes at you all the time: from the stories behind the naming of the Paris Metro stations, to the stories of Occupation and of the French colonial era in Africa. I learnt a lot for sure, but it often came across as a history lesson rather than a novel!

There were some really interesting concepts that Faulks was using here: the theory of autoscopy (of stepping outside your own self to observe yourself as an ‘other’); the shared misunderstanding of many of the characters of the French language, confusing words that sound the same but are spelt differently; the idea of the outsider, with the American Hannah and the Moroccan Tariq giving their own perspectives on Paris and its history; ideas about empire and colonialism, about occupation, and about family, ancestors and identity. All of this is interesting and gives dimension to the novel and its characters, but for all that I still found it a cold, distant narrative that just didn’t pull me in. There are also some very dubious parts of the story that just didn’t hold true for me: a single women happily taking in homeless strangers into her home; characters who were important to the plot simply disappearing never to be heard of again; Tariq, who has smuggled himself into the country and so is by all definitions an illegal alien, buys himself a plane ticket and flies home without any bother; and the ending….. Even with Hannah herself saying: ‘I don’t trust happy endings’ let’s just say that the two main characters – without spoiling things too much here – find themselves a happy ending, with Faulks wrapping things up a little too nicely.

So, all in all, much as I admired the research and some of the ‘big’ ideas that Faulks was grappling with here I was a little underwhelmed by the book, the characters and the way it was structured. Faulks is clearly a great writer – ‘Birdsong’ will stand the test of time as a classic work – but this, for me, was not in the same league.
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American postdoctoral research Hannah and runaway Moroccan teenager Tariq have little in common, yet both are susceptible to the daylight ghosts of Paris. Hannah listens to the extraordinary witness of women who were present under the German occupation; in her desire to understand their lives, and through them her own, she finds a city bursting with clues and connections. Out in the migrant suburbs, Tariq is searching for a mother he barely knew. For him in his innocence, each boulevard, Metro station and street corner is a source of surprise.

You are always guaranteed to have a well written book with Faulks and this was no different. It was a pleasure to read this, every scene is so well crafted and every word considered, it all comes together to make for an excellent, inviting read that I was soon absorbed in. I do think that there are problems with the plot though. Tariq is supposedly in Paris to learn about where his mother came from but there is little mention of his mother, really he is just exploring Paris, this is fine by the way, but it would have been better if the mother aspect was dropped completely. Then we have Sandrine, I have seen many reviews that mention her character, she is a tool for getting Hannah and Tariq to meet and then she disappears. Personally, I did not have a problem with this, it is explained where she goes and there did need to be a way for Hannah and Tariq to meet.

Faulks writes this from the perspective of Hannah and Tariq and in first person for both. This fine and it meant that we did get to know both of them, although I do not think that either are particularly well fleshed out, but it did lead to confusion for me at the beginning of chapters as to which character I was reading about, a small detail but it stilted the flow of the book. Looking at the two characters, I much preferred Hannah’s storyline, here there is great interest as we learn about the women in Paris during German occupation, it was informative and of great interest and I enjoyed her chapters a lot more. I did still enjoy Tariq’s storyline though, when I immersed myself in him as a character and enjoyed seeing Paris through his eyes then I found his chapters to be just as enjoyable but they did not hold the appeal of Hannah’s for me.

I have briefly mentioned that the characters are not well fleshed out and I return to this point. We know bits about them and the more we read the more we learn but there are still big chunks missing. To add insult to injury, Faulks mentions some aspects to their background that sounds really interesting but there is no elaboration, just the tease of there being something to discover but not getting the full story.

I did thoroughly enjoy this read. It is masterfully written and Faulks as created Paris sensationally, both modern and old. We have two intriguing characters to follow, it is just as shame that there are some niggling aspects that let this down for me.
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Paris Echo is one of those books where, whilst recognising the skill of the author and the quality of the writing, I found myself wondering if I was quite clever enough to understand everything the author was trying to communicate. 

The book explores a number of themes including abstruse (to me, at least) concepts such as ‘autoscopy’, the sense of being outside yourself and seeing yourself as if another person.  Tariq, one of the characters in the book, experiences this sensation on a couple of occasions.

The key theme, as suggested by the title, is how echoes of the past reverberate in the present.  For example, Hannah is returning to Paris where she studied previously to research the lives of women in Paris during the German occupation.  But she is also facing up to traumatic memories.  ‘Coming to the American Library when my real material lay elsewhere had been a frivolous thing to do; but I’d wanted to reconnect with my past before I pushed out into the unknown.’  The story told from Hannah’s point of view is interspersed with transcripts of recordings (fictionalised) that she listens to as part of her research.  I confess I did at times think this was merely a way for the author to insert chunks of historical detail into the book.

Tariq, on the other hand, is travelling to the place of his mother’s birth.  Hannah believes Tariq views Paris as ‘some sort of lost motherland’.  However, he never gets anywhere in finding out anything about his mother as far as I could see.

There were clever little touches that I liked such as the chapter headings being stations on the Paris Metro.  I also liked the sense of France’s past history being so present in a physical sense, with buildings, streets and stations named after historical, military and political figures.  ‘In Paris, where almost every street name was a nod to history…’  And the author doesn’t shy away from reminding the reader that France’s role in World War 2 encompassed collaboration as well as resistance.

However, there were many elements I struggled with.  For instance, Tariq encounters a girl named Sandrine on his journey to France.  Later, Hannah encounters Sandrine outside her building and Sandrine introduces Tariq to Hannah.  A nice neat circle, one thinks.  However, Sandrine then disappears completely from the story.

Tariq’s encounters with a woman he catches sight of one day and Hannah’s strange experience when visiting the site of a former concentration camp, left me frankly puzzled.  Were these experiences some sort of hallucination (drug-fuelled or otherwise) or intended to be manifestation of Hannah’s belief in ‘the impact of previous existences on every day I was alive…’?  I really don’t know but I’d love someone who’s read the book and thinks they know the answer to enlighten me!

I thought I would love Paris Echo but, sadly, I ended up just a little confused.
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Not my favourite Sebastian Faulkes book by rather a long way. I had to check that I hadn’t misunderstood that the original plan was for Tariq to look for his mother because that seemed to get lost along the way. 
I wasn’t keen on the characters and was glad to make it to the end.
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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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