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Paris Noire by Francine Thomas Howard

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Paris, 1944: the city steams in the summer heat, bristling with anticipation of its impending liberation. It marks the beginning of the end of a devastating war…and the beginning of a year like no other for Marie-Therese Brillard and her children, Colette and Christophe. They first came to Paris from Martinique in 1928, among the immigrants of color who flocked to France in the 1920s and 30s. They settled in Montmartre, a vibrant neighborhood teeming with musicians, writers, and artists, and began the arduous task of building a new life in a new land. The rigors of World War II only added to the adversity beneath which Marie-Therese struggled. Its culmination should offer her relief, and yet…
When Colette and Christophe are swept up in the jubilation following the Nazis’ departure, each embarks upon a passionate love affair that Marie-Therese fears will cost them their dreams—or their lives. Twenty-year-old Colette begins a dalliance with a white Frenchman, a romance forbidden for the quadroon child of an immigrant. Her older brother Christophe becomes the lover of the beautiful wife of a French freedom fighter, a relationship Marie-Therese suspects can only end in heartache and bloodshed. Adding yet another complication is the man she calls Monsieur Lieutenant, the handsome black soldier whose mere presence intrigues Marie-Therese as no man has before.
Set against the turbulent backdrop of wartime France, Paris Noire is a dramatic and engrossing novel that brings to vivid life the remarkable people once relegated to the fringes of history.

Goodreads Summary

I was surprised by this book.  The plot centers around Colette and Christophe, two siblings who are trying to make their way in the world during the beginning of the end of WWII.  They don't have it easy, many people regard them "black" even though they are not described as very dark at all.  This book does contain many mentions of racial prejudice.  The author is very delicate with the subject, but the reader will be able to tell she did her research. 

This novel isn't just about historical events.  There is a star crossed love story as well.  Christophe meets and falls hard for a woman named Genevieve.  Genevieve, however, is not telling the truth about a very pertinent fact from her past.  Even so, Christophe does truly appear to love her, that much will be apparent to the reader.  Whenever a relationship is based on lies...

I think the author captured the general feeling of the time very well, as well as how people were reacting to the hard times.  The characters overall were very dynamic and interesting.  The secondary characters played fairly large parts in the plot at times, somewhat unusual, but it worked.  The events were fast-paced, sometimes the reader may want to slow down or look back over a chapter.  The ending...well, the ending was the only quality I somewhat hated about the novel....but I suppose that might be the mark of a good author.  This book is recommended to adult readers.

4 Stars

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