Paris, to me, truly is a city of love and lights. My husband and I love to share a kiss on the Pont Alexandre III bridge with the Eiffel Tower glowing in the background. The city just seems to celebrate enlightment “la ville lumière” and vibrancy “la joie de vivre”.
It is almost unbearable to think of the time when the city of love and lights was occupied by Nazis, who were filled with hate and darkness. In Sarah Jio’s new novel, All the Flowers in Paris, we see this terrible time through the eyes of Celine. In 1943 Celine is a widow and single mother who lives with her father, the owner of a flower shop. Once her father’s partial Jewish ancestry is discovered, a yellow star is painted on the flower shop. The business is ruined when customers refuse to do business with them, neighbors become traitors, old friendships are lost, and the family is torn apart. Celine is then held hostage in the apartment of a high ranking German official, who lives at 18 Rue Cler.
Celine represents the strength, dignity and courage of French Jewish people and those in the Resistance movement during the war. She also shows the steadfastness of a mother’s love as she protects her young daughter, Cosi, from all the evil surrounding them. Celine’s boyfriend, Luc, is a policeman who leaves to fight for the resistance. His is mother is the owner of Bistro Jeanty, who tries to find favor with the Germans to keep her restaurant flourishing during the occupation. Celine’s childhood friend, Suzette, is one of the many who are seduced by the Germans, and end up conflicted and emotionally unstable.
The other main character in the book is Caroline, who is living in France in 2009. She suffers a head injury in a bicycle accident after leaving the Bistro Jeanty after an unpleasant encounter with an unnamed man. She wakes up five days after the accident with temporary memory loss. Upon discharge from the hospital, she returns to her apartment at 18 Rue Cler, to try to discover her true identity. She befriends the new owner of the Bistro Jeanty, Victor, as well as a college student who is studying the history of occupied Paris. We follow not only Caroline’s recovery, but learn of how the apartment connects the lives of Celine and Caroline. Like lotus flowers, they lead harrowing journeys, forging their ways through darkness, summon inter strength, and emerge and bloom triumphantly.
Thank you #NetGalley and #BallantineBooks for my advanced reader copy. This book will be published on August 13, 2019.