The Paris Hours

Written by Alex George
Review by Ellen Jaquette

On a hot summer day in 1927, four unconnected Parisians live their lives. By the end of this day, their stories will have altered, some dramatically, as their challenges and wishes thread together in a quiet but affecting novel. The cast represents a wide variety of Parisians: Souren is a refugee of the Armenian genocide, entertaining children with his puppet shows in the park; Camille, a hotel owner and former housekeeper of writer Marcel Proust, leaves her home to rescue one of his notebooks containing secrets from her own life; Guillaume is a debt-ridden artist determined to stay alive; and journalist Jean-Paul lives on despite his great loss and suffering.

What do they have in common? Grand, epic stories fill their lives. But (generally) not on this day. On this day, their quiet desire to keep on living, and to connect with those they love most, push them to quietly walk the streets of Paris. This is a strikingly interior tale, lovingly written and focused in scope, with plenty of mystery and surprises but somehow feeling calm all the same. Famous Paris residents of the time, such as Gertrude Stein and Josephine Baker, pepper these pages and add atmosphere, but do not pull focus from the main characters that readers will cheer for intimately as the day progresses. Those seeking an immersive read set in 1920s Paris will enjoy this emotional ride, providing a glimpse into the desires and lives that walked the streets of Paris in the shadow of the Great War.