After losing her fiancé in the Vietnam War, nineteen-year-old Laurel Haley takes a job in England, hoping the distance will mend her shattered heart. Laurel expects the pain might lessen but does not foresee the beguiling man she meets or that they’ll go to Paris, where the city’s magic will take over and alter everything Laurel believes about love.
Thirty years later, Laurel’s daughter Annie is newly engaged and an old question resurfaces: who is Annie’s father and what happened to him? Laurel has always been vague about the details and Annie’s told herself it doesn’t matter. But with her impending marriage, Annie has to know everything. Why won’t Laurel tell her the truth?
The key to unlocking Laurel’s secrets starts with a mysterious book about an infamous woman known as the Duchess of Marlborough. Annie’s quest to understand the Duchess, and therefore her own history, takes her from a charming hamlet in the English countryside, to a decaying estate kept behind barbed wire, and ultimately to Paris where answers will be found at last.
I finished this book a few weeks ago, left it a week to mull over my thoughts, realised I didn’t know how I felt about this book, decided to re-read it and I still don’t know how I feel about this book. I think it was a good idea, it could’ve just been better executed. There was so much going on, yet it felt like nothing was happening. The writing felt a little clumsy and flat, and the main characters didn’t really have any personality.
I’ll See You in Paris has two different time frames – the Vietnam War and the War on Terror, and would often change, without warning, between the two. I didn’t really feel this added anything to the book – except for perhaps some clumsy parallels between mother and daughter – and would’ve thought a more linear structure would’ve worked better (or even if Annie’s parts had bookended – no pun intended – Pru’s).
This book and I, we struggled. I’m usually a fairly focused reader, but I found my attention drifting while reading. The scenes seemed to drag along and sometimes without adding anything to the story – I didn’t really need the emails to/from Annie’s fiance, for example, and some of the interviews between Win and Mrs. Spencer dragged on far too long and felt indulgent – and I felt like nothing was really happening. It was fairly obvious how the story was going to pan out – I guessed who Pru and Win were in the ‘2001’ parts of the book fairly quickly. I also felt the book ended somewhat abruptly, and wish there was some kind of closure – perhaps an epilogue.
The characters lack any real personality . While Win is, on occasion, charming and Mrs. Spencer is always good for a laugh, although isn’t very likeable, for the most part, these characters don’t seem to act because they are forced to by circumstance. Ultimately, I didn’t really feel anything for any of the characters because they were one dimensional, and that’s probably the nicest thing I can say about any of them.
If I had to say something positive about the book, the last maybe 20% of the book is quite suspenseful – while certain suspicions are confirmed, there’s actually quite an interesting backstory for Laurel revealed, and this was, without a doubt, my favourite part of the book. Despite my complaints about the writing, there is also some nice prose in there if you look for it.
Not necessarily a bad read, but I felt like it was quite clumsy for start to finish, and could’ve done better. Perhaps it just wasn’t the right book for me, and others will enjoy it more!
Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.