Reading books like Last Train to Paris by Michele Zackheim confirm my theory that I may have been born in the wrong decade.
This novel combines two of my favorite subjects, Paris (loosely, though part of the novel is also set in Berlin) and World War II, and adds a really strong female character who I really wish I could be when I grow up. It is the story of Rose (R.B.) Manon, who in her old age recounts her younger years, both as a child in Nevada and as a journalist in Europe in the years immediately preceding World War II. Despite generally being the lone female reporting on any given story, she is well-regarded for her work; however it is her gender and close ties to the story that force her away from the “real” news to cover a sensational missing person case in Paris and the subsequent trial. Though she feels obligated in some ways to cover this story, it is what is happening in Berlin – especially the fate of her lover – that she wants to document. I was so drawn to how Rose went from living in what was at the time the middle of nowhere to heading out for the big bad world — first in New York, then Paris and Berlin — to pursue her dreams and when realizing what was happening around her to help others. I wish I had her chutzpah.
I’ve read many, many books – fiction and non-fiction – about World War II in Europe and I am always amazed when I read something new about what went on during that period. I didn’t do any fact-checking (yet) on some of the Nazis’ activities described in this novel, but knowing what they had done, they are totally within the realm of possibility.
Part historical narrative, part mystery, part love story, this novel has something for everyone and is well worth reading.