The Last Hours in Paris

Written by Ruth Druart
Review by Edward James

The four-year occupation of France by the Germans in WW2 must be one of the most intensively fictionalised episodes in history. It takes an inventive author to find a new perspective on this well-surveyed landscape. Ruth Druart is such an author, as she has already shown in her previous novel, While Paris Slept.

Both novels are as much about the aftermath of the Occupation and the healing of old wounds as about the Occupation itself. The Last Hours in Paris begins in the last few weeks before Paris is liberated in August 1944. It describes the savagery of the liberation as the population rise up against the retreating Germans and their French collaborators and how the supposed collaborators and their children fare in their post-war lives.

This is a love story of a French girl and a German officer, about divided loyalties, savage retribution, enduring prejudice, and a form of redemption. It is structured as a dual narrative with the events of 1944 set beside the return of the lovers’ grown-up daughter to Paris in 1963 to explore the past her mother kept hidden. This is an engrossing and psychologically complex novel which helps to explain why the Occupation still so fascinates us.