Book review: A Week in Paris by Rachel Hore

A Week in Paris by Rachel Hore
A Week in Paris by Rachel Hore

When dark secrets from the past refuse to lie down, it’s time to stand up and face the truth…

But for one wartime survivor, revelations about her life under the Nazis in occupied Paris could destroy forever the love and trust she shares with her daughter.

Rachel Hore has earned herself a growing reputation as a clever conjuror of past and present, a writer who revels in exploring how our personal histories impact on people and events in the future.

And as the acclaimed author of The Glass Painter’s Daughter, shortlisted for the 2010 Romantic Novel of the Year award, A Place of Secrets, a Richard and Judy book club pick, and A Gathering Storm, shortlisted for the RONA Historical Novel of the Year in 2012, Hore has undoubtedly become a master of her trade.

A Week in Paris is another compelling and thought-provoking story, an emotional rollercoaster ride, rich in romance and bristling with suspense, which weaves together the lives of a mother and her daughter, one imprisoned by the past and one haunted by involuntary fragments of memory.

In 1961, twenty-year-old violinist Fay Knox is on tour with her orchestra in Paris. Back home in rural Norfolk, her mother Kitty is in hospital where she is being treated for a nervous breakdown.

Fay never knew her father, American doctor Eugene Knox, who died when Fay was just a few years old. Her mother rarely speaks of the war years and her refusal to revisit the past has created a barrier between them.

When Fay leaves for Paris, Kitty insists she takes with her an old rucksack hidden in a trunk at their house. Inside she finds a rough cloth child’s dress and a card with Fay’s name on it and the name of a Parisian convent.

In Paris, many of the landmarks fill Fay with a strange unease, a sense of déjà vu which she cannot understand as she has never before visited Paris. Soon formless memories grow stronger and she realises that her connection with the city’s streets runs deeper than she ever knew.

As Fay starts to pick up the threads of the past, she learns that in 1937, her mother enrolled at the Conservatoire on the banks of the Seine to pursue her dream of becoming a concert pianist. But then war broke out and the city of light fell under the brutal shadow of German Occupation.

And hidden truths from years ago will force Fay to question who she is and where she really belongs...

Hore is on top form in this intriguing and passion-packed romance which picks up a cracking pace as we are swept back to wartime Paris, a city of danger and desire, secrets and betrayals, life and death.

Time and place are superbly imagined, whether it is the menace and uncertainty of those mercilessly trapped under the Nazi jackboot or Paris, serene and sparkling in the spring sunshine of a new dawn.

And as always, the bonds of love, friendship and family, and the importance of memory, take starring roles in a gripping and beautifully crafted story which will resonate long after the last page has turned.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)