Friday, July 08, 2022

Paris in July: The Lost Sister of Fifth Avenue by Ella Carey

Ella Carey is back with the fourth book in her Daughters of New York series, with each book getting better and better!

Like the other books in the series this book has multiple timelines. The major story is split between the time just before the start of WWII and then during the days of the war itself. We meet sisters Martha and Charlotte. Martha is bookish and lives at home with her widowed father in New York, making very safe choices. Charlotte is far more adventurous and living in Paris, working in an art gallery in Paris for old family friend Anita Goldstein. 

Charlotte feels a strong pull to Paris

Charlotte pulled her sister into a rough hug, closing her eyes against the familiar feel, hating the way she could almost hear Martha's heart beating hard in her chest. "I love you and I love Papa," she said, murmuring into her sister's ear. "But Paris is part of me, and I it, and should I leave --"

and then

"Paris is my New York, Martha,"

In the late 1930s the spectre of the Nazis looms large for everyone. For Anita, who is not only Jewish but is also an art gallery owner who specialises in modern art, it is clear that she will be exactly the kind of person who will be targeted in the event of an invasion. When Anita dies, Charlotte is determined that she will be the one who protects Anita's legacy. Through her work in the arts, Charlotte also becomes involved in the evacuation of the treasures of the Louvre, initially to Anita's family chateau in the Loire and again later into the Vichy France.

Before the war begins, Martha travels to France initially to try and convince Charlotte, unsuccessfully, to return to the safety of New York. Whilst on the ship to Europe, she forms an attachment to dashing Scotsman Clyde Fraser.  We experience Martha's worries as she waits for news from both Charlotte and Clyde and as she becomes involved in trying to save a Jewish professor through official channels.

Once the war begins, Charlotte relies on the fact that she is American to protect her, but when she becomes involved in the resistance movement, she puts herself in dangerous situations on a regular basis, and if she gets caught, her nationality will not protect her due to her association with both Anita and the modern art scene.

The other aspect of the story that weaves through the story, is that of the girl's mother Chloe and Anita in the days just after the end of WWI, which helps show why the bonds between the families are so strong.

Carey does a great job at creating tension within the story. There is the tension of Martha and her father waiting and wondering if Charlotte is okay, and for Martha also to hear from Clyde. Then there is the tension of the growing Nazi threat in the days during the lead up to the war, and then during the war as we follow Charlotte's dangerous work.

It sounds like there is a lot going on, and there is, but the three strands blend together beautifully. It was also an emotional ride given that we have characters who are in life and death situations throughout the story.

I mentioned before that this is the fourth book in the series, and whilst this can be read as a standalone, I think that this book is the most connected of any of the books. One of the characters, Sandrine, is the sister of the main character from the last book, fashion designer Vianne who makes a cameo appearance in this book.

I have read seven or eight books by Carey now, and I have to say that with this series of loosely connected books, she continues to improve with each book. You can also see her own passions shining through, namely art, fashion, books, New York and Paris!

I really hope there are more books to come. I will definitely be reading them!

As I am sharing this post with Paris in July, I thought I would share a passage from the book. There are several others that I could have shared, but in the end, I chose this one.

The following evening, Charlotte stood with Anita outside the Basilica Sacre-Couer. They'd take a summer stroll through the winding streets of Montmartre. Later, they'd return to Rue Laffitte to enjoy the spinach quiche and salad of grated carrot with Dijon vinaigrette that Anita had prepared for their evening meal.

Charlotte looked out at the landscape, all of Paris sprawling below. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine how this hill and its surrounding countryside were once dotted with windmills, and she felt the familiar tug at her heartstrings at the sight of the Eiffel Tower pointing up toward the heavens, while behind the monument, the sky was washed in a luminscent golden glow and the sun sank, a stunning tangerine orb beneath the horizon. Beside her, Anita was quiet, her brown eyes narrowed in contemplation.

Anita balled her hands tight. "Look at this. Paris. The city of light and dreams for so many." She turned to face Charlotte, her dark eyes narrowing. "I'd rather throw myself into the Seine than lose everything I love. As for living under the Nazi's rule?" She shook her head. "I'd rather stab myself with a dagger and end it all."

Charlotte froze and a deep coldness pierced her chest. "You must not talk that way."

Anita punched out her words "Living under a government whose very legal framework allows for the persecution of Jews would be impossible. No, I'd be better off at the bottom of my beloved Seine.

Charlotte whispered her words. "I shall never let you be hurt, as long as I draw breath." She swallowed hard, her throat sticking. She'd been too young to do anything to save her mother, but she'd rather die on the tip of a sword than sit by and do nothing to protect the woman who had been there her entire life. "I shall protect you and everything you have worked for with every fiber of my heart. When it is all over, we will dance, and we will celebrate in the streets with all of Paris, just as people did after the Great War. And then, you and I will come up here, and together, we will watch the sun set over Paris from Sacre-Couer.

I am also linking this with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for the opportunity to read and review this book.

About the book:

New York, 1938: Martha pulled the door of her Fifth Avenue apartment closed, her heart thumping, re-reading the telegram she’d been dreading. Her beloved sister Charlotte needed her help. She was alone in Paris, and the threat of Nazi invasion was growing ever stronger. The time had come for Martha to make the bravest decision of her life. She needed to bring Charlotte home.

As Martha looks out of her bedroom window at the blossom-covered trees in Central Park, she is a world away from Europe and the threat of war. But when a telegram arrives from her sister Charlotte telling of the death of their Jewish friend Anita, Martha’s quiet life changes in an instant. With the threat of the Nazi invasion growing, Martha knows she must travel to Paris to convince Charlotte to return home.

When Martha arrives, she finds a city preparing for war. Soldiers patrol Paris’ cobbled streets and families talk of packing up and fleeing with whatever they can carry. Clutching her sister tightly, Martha knows that Charlotte has already decided to stay. Charlotte’s heart is in France, and as an American in Paris she believes she will be safe.

When the Nazis march through Paris’ streets and raise their flags over the city’s most beautiful buildings, Charlotte is determined not to give in. She works for the Resistance with a Frenchman named Louis, carrying messages, and hiding Anita’s family’s precious art collection from the Nazis. Meanwhile, Martha vows to help a female Jewish professor to safety in America, only to be faced with impossible odds.

But as the war rages, Martha and Charlotte’s determination will be tested like never before. And when Charlotte uncovers a shocking secret about her family which threatens her own life, can she find the strength to protect those she loves the most?

From top ten bestselling author Ella Carey comes an utterly heartbreaking novel about the strength of sisterly love and the courage of the women of the Resistance. Perfect for fans of The Nightingale, All The Light We Cannot See and Fiona Valpy.

About the author

Ella Carey is the international bestselling author of The Things We Don’t Say, Secret Shores, From a Paris Balcony, The House by the Lake, and Paris Time Capsule. Her books have been published in over fourteen languages, in twelve countries, and have been shortlisted for ARRA awards. A Francophile who has long been fascinated by secret histories set in Europe’s entrancing past, Ella has degrees in music, nineteenth-century women’s fiction, and modern European history. She lives in Melbourne with her two children and two Italian greyhounds who are constantly mistaken for whippets.

Ella loves to connect with her readers regularly through her facebook page and on her website.

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  1. Interesting book! I like WWII historical novels. I just finished reading another American in Paris and it's a memoir of a diplomat's wife in present day. And it's all about food. I'll be putting a link in the 2nd week list of Paris in July. You're the first one to know. :) .

  2. As soon as you described it as a memoir of a diplomats wife I wondered if it was Ann Mah, and it was!