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The Paris Daughter

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This is the second Kristen Harmer book I have read, the first being The Forest of Vanishing Stars, which I loved. This book takes place in France around the story of two women, one an artist the other a bookstore keepers wife who both have daughters the same age who befriend each other. When war comes, a mother has to decide to give up her child so that child can survive. What becomes of the children during WWII is a sad event as well as what becomes of these two mothers. A heart wrenching tale of war and the love of mothers. Thank you netgalley, the publisher and the author for the ARC!

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I received this text from Net Galley.

This book shows the ultimate love of a mother.

Two young mothers meet one day in Paris, as the German occupation begins to spread in the area. One is an artist, one works at a bookstore. Elise, the artist, is married to another artist - one who is part of the resistance and therefore she has also become a suspect. She must face a hard choice about whether she should take her daughter with her as she goes into hiding, or leave her behind. This after witnessing many Jewish families begin to be torn apart, willingly and not so as the occupation spreads. They too must make this decision, only parents are sending their children away - to relatives, to strangers, anywhere where they MIGHT be safe.

In the meantime, as we know, Jewish people were rounded up and sent to concentration camps where they faced horrible living or working conditions, if they were lucky. The unlucky ones - were never heard from again.

Elise decides her daughter will be safer with her new friend Juliette and her family, instead of with her fleeing. So, she leaves her at the bookstore and disappears into hiding for several years. During the time that Elise is gone, such terrible events take place - war, bombs, and loss. Lots of loss.

Several bombs are dropped over the area where the library stands, and the area is left in rubble. Nothing is left where the library once stood, including Juliettes' family. Except for herself and Lucy (her own daughter), everybody else from her family was taken in the series of bombs. Leaving Juliette devastated and having to restart her entire life.

When Elise is able to return to Paris, she is completely shocked to discover the conditions of the area where the bookshop once stood. She had no idea of the bombing that took place there. Through neighbors, she finds out that Juliette has moved to the states and that one of the many children under her care at the time lived. Unfortunately for Elise, that does not appear to be her daughter. Caught in between whether she should find Juliette or not and what that would cause - many years go by.

Miraculously, Elise is able to reunite their Jewish friend Ruth - who had sent her children away - with her two children. Eventually, they too move to the states, leave Elise to loose herself in her art once more.

When Ruth stumbles upon a bookshop and Juliette in New York, she knows it is time to reunite her with Elise. At first Elise resists Ruth's requests, but eventually they decide this will be the best thing. After the estranged friends meet, it is easy to see why Juliette has been avoiding this reunion for so long. Yes, she is hurt. Yes, she thinks her friend should not have abandoned her daughter. Yes, she might blame her husband's death on Elise's daughter. But there is more to it than that...

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Harmel does not disappoint with The Paris Daughter. It is a truly believable story that probably did happen many times during the war. Documenting everyday people (some with connections to larger names) make for an extremely interesting read. The only thing missing was an epilogue to find out what happens next. Bravo!

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“The universe always leads you to exactly where you’re meant to be, for though it may be endless, there is a place in it for each and every one of us.”

Billed as a WWII historical fiction The Paris Daughter by Kristin Harmel is that and so much more. When the Nazi occupation of Paris, France and its accompanying dangers force an artist, Elise, and her friend, Juliette a bookstore owner, to make life altering choices they cling to a hope in each other’s friendship and the goodness of strangers fighting in small ways for those most at risk. But unforseen circumstances compel them to confront the emotional guilt of those decisions even as they rationalize their necessity. While both are impacted by the trauma and loss caused by war, each will choose to deal with it differently creating lasting implications for all involved.

“This isn’t the life any of us were meant to have. But we are still the people we used to be.”

The Paris Daughter is an accurate portrayal of the heart wretching horrors civilians experienced during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Told through the eyes of both Elise and Juliette, life before and after the Nazi’s took over is a vivid backdrop to an interwoven relationship story which captivatingly explores the personal agony of making life altering choices when the safety and well-being of those closest are at stake. I love Kristin’s ability to connect the reader emotionally with her characters, who are authentic and relatable. Elise and Juliette have different perspectives that will draw you to their personal position and cause you to contemplate “what if I was put in that situation” thoughts.

The setting of France during WWI is also the locale for another of Kristin’s writings, The Book of Lost Names (which I reviewed in 2020). I loved how Kristin was able to intersect Elise’s story with a crucial part of The Book of Lost Names. If you haven’t already I would highly recomment you add that one to your TBR. The conclusion of The Paris Daughter is not at all what I expected (not in a bad way) and I was content with the resolution, considering there is never a complete happy ending when tragedy and loss are involved. From beginning to end The Paris Daughter was an engrossing read and an emotional experience, one that I can’t recommend highly enough even if you are not normally a fan of historical fiction. Kristin sums up her writing beautifully when she added in the author notes, ” When I write my novels, I’m not explicity trying to teach you a lesson. Rather, I’m hoping that you’re reminded of our place in the grand scheme of things – both in the events that have come before us, and in the events that are yet to come. I think that when we know more about the past we are better prepared to face the future, whatever comes our way. I also hope that when you read my books, you’re reminded of our incredible human capacity for love, resilience, and survival, even in the midst of terrible times.”

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I enjoyed this novel set both just before WW2 in Paris and during the war, and in New York City after WW2 through 1960.

I enjoyed the friendship of the two American women who married French men. Elise who married a fellow artist, and Juliette who with her husband run a bookstore. The women are both pregnant at the same time and have daughters that are very similar in appearance.

I enjoyed the twists and turns, it wasn’t predictable and if you enjoy historical fiction you will enjoy this one too!

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(4.5 stars, rounded up)

Content warnings: war, bombing, murder, plane crash, loss of a spouse, loss of children, extreme gaslighting, mental illness, betrayal, theft, concentration camps, kidnapping

Elise LeClair is an American woodcarver living with her French painter husband in Paris. One chance morning, a pregnant Elise meets Juliette Foulon. Juliette is also an American and is also pregnant at the time. Juliette takes Elise to her family's bookstore nearby, and a friendship develops between the two women.

World War II breaks out and the two women and their German Jewish friend Ruth must make impossible decisions to keep themselves and their children safe from the Nazis.

Kristin Harmel followed the extraordinary The Book of Lost Names with a more lackluster The Forest of Vanishing Stars, but she has triumphantly returned with this novel.

Recommended for readers of historical women's fiction and WWII fiction.

Representation: expats, women with careers in the early 1900s, German Jews during WWII

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Loved this book. I read many historical fiction WW2 books. I enjoyed the plot development, the characters and reading about NYC after the war. How these characters forged a new life, in a new country after the devastating aftermath of WW2 -couldn’t put the book down.

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I wasn't sure I"d enjoy yet another World War II story in Paris but once again Harmel delivered a compelling story. The art world and bookshop settings were very interesting both in Paris and New York. Two strong main characters but a slightly predictable ending.

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Kristin Hammel knocked it out of the park yet again! My only complaint is that she doesn't have 50 books a year! I would definitely read them.

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I felt like this book was way too predictable. I couldn’t tell if it was intentional or not. It started out great then fizzled about 1/2 way through.

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Wow is the one word that could summarize the twists and turns, ups and downs, and the heart break that I went through when reading this book. This was my first Kristin Harmel book, but definitely not my last. i love historical fiction, especially set during WWII. Since so many books are set during this time, it is becoming more and more difficult to find a book with a different plot to one I’ve read before. Harmel did not disappoint. There is beautiful character building, along with centering themes around family rather than the political aspect of the war. Both women that the story focuses on have to make the ultimate sacrifice and lose so much during the war. Without spoiling anything, know your heart will be broken and the twists will have attempting to mend your already shattered heart.

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An interesting story about motherhood, trauma, guilt, grief, and the lengths a mother would go to to protect her children. I really like the concept on this one, it had great potential, but I’m not sure about the execution. While I am usually a Harmel fan and really respect her and her writing and wanted to love this book, this time it just didn’t work for me. There is a “secret” not revealed until the last 10% of the story. Trouble is, it’s easy to figure out, I knew it from very early on in the story. I think I would have liked the flow better if it were openly revealed from the beginning and then the reader could witness more of the inner conflicts of Juliette’s mental anguish, grief process and impacts on decision making along the way. I think it would have been interesting to explore that side, and maybe build sympathy for Juliette. Instead, keeping things “hidden” just made the story feel longer than it was and made the character unlikeable. I also really didn’t care for the ending. It was too dramatic/over the top and felt thrown in there. Almost like “oh here’s another interesting historical happening, let’s add it in”. I wish I felt better about it, I know I’m in the minority on this…it just didn’t connect for me.

Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

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Will definitely be a contender for historical fiction this year and making the book club circuit. It might have been a bit predictable but I don’t need a book to surprise me to be great.

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Heart-rending story of two mothers that meet and become friends in France in WWII. When one leaves her daughter in the care of the other, the consequences prove to be devasting for both families.

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4.5 stars

My first Kristin Harmel, but not my last! I'm an active member of her Friends and Fiction Facebook group but had not read any of her books. This WWII novel is heartbreaking and so beautifully written. I'm also a US History teacher, so I especially enjoyed the nuances of the story of the occupation of Paris. Thank you so much Gallery Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a digital ARC.

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I love Kristin Harmel’s writing and her specific take on history. The Paris Daughter is another story in Harmel’s amazing ability to tell a specific WWII story. Set in Paris and NYC focused on two young mothers and their daughters. We explore heartache, grief, drive, survival and sacrifice in another extraordinary story from Harmel.

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You know going into a @kristinharmel book that you are going to get a detailed, well written story that pulls at your heart strings. But this was so much more.

Two mothers in Paris must make very difficult decisions during the early 40s. They become friends after they meet while pregnant in the park. And they stay very close after the birth of their daughters, bonding over their shared American nationality. Lucie and Mathilde are as close as sisters, which is what happens after Elise is forced to go into hiding during WWII. Her husband begins working with the resistance and they know she’s American. She has to do the unthinkable and leave her daughter behind with Juliette’s family and they pretend that Mathilde’s their cousin’s daughter.

After tragedy strikes, Juliette has no money and no where to go. She’s forced to move family to New York where she has some family. Elise is unaware of this and returns to Paris to find her daughter, but they are nowhere to be found. She will never stop looking for Mathilde; no matter what it takes.

This book was absolutely heartbreaking! These poor mothers have been through so much. It’s true love for their families that get them through the hardest of times. I loved the setting and Juliette’s bookstore. Elise’s talent and her passion for creating beautiful works of art is what helps her with her search for her daughter.

Thank you so much @gallerybooks, @bookclubfavorites and @netgalley for my gifted copy. The Paris Daughter is out now.

5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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I love historical fiction, and this was a fun, mostly entertaining (yet heartbreaking) read. HOWEVER... right at the beginning there's a very obvious foreshadow that ruined the rest of the plot "twists" and the novel for me. I kept thinking, "Please let me be wrong. Please don't let this author be so obvious about so many potentially interesting plot points." But, alas, I was correct. So, although an enjoyable read, the plethora of very obvious, very distracting, too predictable, too improbable coincidences.

I liked the characters, I felt for their situations, but in the end, I just couldn't get past all of the in-your-face story manipulations.

I wouldn't say to skip the book, the story is still good, but just be prepared to really suspend your sense of logic

Thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster, and Gallery Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinions.

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Thank you for opportunity to read abd review this book!

Another 5 star read from Kristen Harmel! This story pulls on our heart strings and helps us understand why mothers willingly left their children during ww2.
Beautifully written as always! Harmel is my go to for historical fiction and this one did not disappoint

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The initial setup for this story is interesting, but was just a bit too predictable. These two American women living in Paris and married to Frenchmen are fairly stereotypical of the times. That they should connect in such a dramatic way in the beginning and at the end was not really believable. The catastrophic ending is beyond believable even though there is some link to actual events. The obvious mother daughter link halfway through rather spoils things.

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