Today is the release day of The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel! This is one of two ARCs that I received from Simon & Schuster Canada this spring in exchange for an honest review, and I can’t wait to tell you guys what I thought about this one. I’ll try to keep my review spoiler free, but no promises – there might be giveaways here and there, so caution to all those who proceed!
Synopsis: This powerful novel of fate, resistance, and family tells the tale of an American woman, a British RAF pilot, and a young Jewish teenager whose lives intersect in occupied Paris during the tumultuous days of World War II.
When newlywed Ruby Henderson Benoit arrives in Paris in 1939 with her French husband Marcel, she imagines strolling arm in arm along the grand boulevards, awash in the golden afternoon light. But war is looming on the horizon, and as France falls to the Nazis, her marriage begins to splinter, too.
Charlotte Dacher is eleven when the Germans roll into the French capital, their sinister swastika flags snapping in the breeze. After the Jewish restrictions take effect and Jews are ordered to wear the yellow star, Charlotte can’t imagine things getting much worse. But then the mass deportations begin, and her life is ripped forever apart.
Thomas Clarke joins the British Royal Air Force to protect his country, but when his beloved mother dies in a German bombing during the waning days of the Blitz, he wonders if he’s really making a difference. Then he finds himself in Paris, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and he discovers a new reason to keep fighting—and an unexpected road home.
When fate brings them together, Ruby, Charlotte, and Thomas must summon the courage to defy the Nazis—and to open their own broken hearts—as they fight to survive. Rich with historical drama and emotional depth, this is an unforgettable story that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.
I gotta say, a lot of my expectations going into this books were so wrong. I’ve read a lot of historical fiction in my day, and also a lot of the sub-genre of World War II fiction. I thought that I would be able to pinpoint the story as soon as I started reading, but I was so off. First of all, I thought that the book handled the romance aspects of itself marvelously. All the relationships started very organically, and while I thought that some of them felt rather rushed, I think that that’s okay – things happen quickly in real-life, and to expect everything to happen at a slow and leisurely pace (especially in the characters situations) isn’t reasonable.
Furthermore, the opposition of love and new relationships was also really well written, and was one of the things that made the story even more tragic for me (I’m talking about death people). When I was reading the final 50 pages of the book, I had such a hard time wrapping my head around how Harmel decided to do it. First of all, the characters that I had pegged to survive were the ones that died. I was shocked to say the least, but for these characters it seems almost anti-climatic – their entire arc is full of danger and hazardous missions, and to die the way they did made it seem like a let down. You want them to go out fighting, not quietly. But again, tragedy – they were unable to control their death, and to me it really helped to drive home how pointless death in war is.
The other deaths in the story also helped to set the background for the main characters, with people dying left right and center in opposition to the Nazis. It showed how many good people lost their lives in order to do whatever they could to fight for the people they loved. The side characters that were introduced were really well rounded characters, and I liked them just as much as I liked the mains. Their small actions really went a long way to flesh them out as characters and I think Harmel did a great job of providing foils for Ruby, Charlotte and Thomas.
I wish that we could’ve been given more information on some topics, but I guess the author deemed that it wasn’t necessary for the story. For example, why one character was unable to have children. My curiosity was peaked when in the beginning they mention how it was a miracle that they had even had a child to begin with, and I think even just a line describing why it was a miracle would have been nice.
One other thing that bothered me was the first and last chapters – they struck me as almost sore thumbs in the novel. They’re written in first person (unlike the rest of the book which is third) and have a very different tone. I started the first chapter and from the impression it gave I wasn’t as excited for the rest of the book. But, you shouldn’t judge a book from it’s first chapter. The novel definitely picks up, and every other chapter is super engaging and fun to read. I just think that it was an interesting choice to have the introducing and concluding chapters so different from the rest of the book, especially when I consider them to be the weakest chapters.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and will be looking into Harmel’s other publications. Remember, The Room on Rue Amelie is out now, and I highly suggest you pick it up!
That’s all for now loves, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for my next review of my ARC of Every Note Played, which is out on the 3rd of April!