Published by Headline Review
Available in ebook, audio, hardback (4 March 2021) | paperback (17 February 2022)
Source: Copy received for review
ABOUT THE BOOK
On a platform in occupied Paris, a mother whispers goodbye. It is the end. But also the beginning…
A young woman’s future is torn away in a heartbeat. Herded on to a train bound for Auschwitz, in an act of desperation she entrusts her most precious possession to a stranger. All she has left now is hope.
Santa Cruz 1953
Jean-Luc thought he had left it all behind. The scar on his face a small price to pay for surviving the horrors of Nazi Occupation. Now, he has a new life in California, a family. He never expected the past to come knocking on his door.
On a darkened platform, two destinies become entangled. Their choice will change the future in ways neither could have imagined…
Beginning in 1953, Jean-Luc is living in America with his family, having made a new life far from his previous one in Paris. Everything is normal until one day, early one morning, there is a knock at the door. Life is thrown into turmoil.
This dual time story, set in 1944 Paris and 1950’s America is told through various perspectives. I’ve read so many stories that feature the German occupation and the Holocaust and it never fails to horrify. While Paris Slept binds together its characters in the most tragic and extraordinary circumstances.
Jean-Luc is a railway worker in 1944 Paris during the German occupation. Whilst working on the tracks at Bobigny, he becomes aware of the horror around him, despite the secrecy, and after realising what is happening at that station, he is angry and wants to take action against the Germans. Nearby is Drancy, a transit camp used for transporting Jewish people to Auschwitz. The Germans are using the cattle trains as people transporters and they go through Bobigny.
Sarah, a young Jewish mother is on one of these trains with her newborn son. She takes desperate action to try to save her son, and this decision will have repercussions for all concerned.
In alternating timelines, While Paris Slept tells of life in Paris under occupation – the worry of never knowing who can be trusted and who is a collaborator, always being hungry because of insufficient food and curfews. The brutality and inhumanity and struggle for survival both in and out of the concentration camps is harrowing no matter how many times you read of the suffering. It’s also a story of a family making a new life for themselves in America, where life is good and the future looks secure.
Both timelines were completely engrossing and although I didn’t favour one over the other, I was so anxious to know how everything would unfold in the second half of the story. There is a dilemma at the heart of this story which is heartrending. My heart broke at times for the sadness and suffering of all involved, especially the innocent, caught up in this heartbreaking situation.
The level of research necessary for the story comes through clearly and it makes for an authentic and compelling read. In the author’s acknowledgements Ruth Duart refers to a school in the Jewish quarter of Paris where 260 pupils were arrested during WW11 and not one survived.
This is the author’s debut novel. Wonderfully drawn characters, a beautifully written emotive storyline – I loved it and I would recommend to fans of historical fiction but mostly to anyone who loves an engrossing story.
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite and the publisher for the review copy. I also have an audio extract below to share.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ruth Druart grew up on the Isle of Wight, moving away at the age of eighteen to study psychology at Leicester University. She has lived in Paris since 1993, where she has followed a career in teaching. She has recently taken a sabbatical, so that she can follow her dream of writing full-time.