Preview Reviews: Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

Preview Reviews: Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

The war is over, but the past is never past …

Paris, 1944. Charlotte Foret is working in a tiny bookstore in Nazi-occupied Paris struggling to stay alive and keep her baby Vivi safe. Every day they live through is a miracle until Vivi becomes gravely ill. In desperation, Charlotte accepts help from an unlikely saviour – and her life is changed forever.

Charlotte is no victim. She is a survivor. But the truth of what happened in Paris is something she knows she can never share with anyone, including her daughter. Can she ever really leave Paris behind, and embrace the next chapter of her life?

Seamlessly interweaving Charlotte’s past in wartime Paris and her present in the 1950s world of New York publishing, Paris Never Leaves You is a heartbreakingly moving and unforgettable story of resilience, love – and impossible choices.

Read our Preview reviewer thoughts here:

From the moment I began reading Paris Never Leaves You I was enthralled by Charlotte. For her to have such strength and fighting spirit in such a time which is unfathomable to anyone unless you have been through it is truely remarkable. I felt as though I was there with Charlotte & Vivi on their journey through both wartime Paris & post war New York. Through their struggles, resilience and moral dilemmas at a time where there wasn’t just right and wrong but just a primal fight to survive the horrors of an awful time in history. Plus the relationships that become so essential but dangerous in these unprecedented times. I couldn’t put this book down as with every page I turned I was able to delve further into the intwining web of Charlotte’s past and present. I would highly recommend Paris Never Leaves You and I was disappointed when I read the last page as I just wanted more! – Victoria, VIC, 4 Stars

Ellen Feldman’s Paris Never Leaves You is a passionate story about resilience, love and survive in the time of war. This magnificent story alternates between wartime Paris and the 1950s New York Publishing world. It follows Charlotte and her young daughter Vivi, through surviving wartime Paris and the Germany occupancy to their new chapter in New York City. Obviously, the war is over, but the past is never past, and survival never really comes without cost. A must read! – Amy, NSW, 4 Stars

Readers who enjoy historical fiction will be drawn into the journey of Charlotte and her daughter Vivi. As German forces occupy Paris during the war, the story interweaves themes of identity, survival, love and guilt. Vivid memories are carried into their new life in America after the war where Charlotte works in a New York publishing company. As Vivi navigates her teenage years and attempts to develop her own identity, she turns to her mother to learn about their past. Paris Never Leaves You is such a well written novel that draws the reader into the story. Ellen Feldman’s writing pulled me into the time and place from the first page. The compelling characters keep the pages turning and the story resonates long after the novel has finished. Charlotte’s conversations with her friend and colleague Horace are particularly memorable. The story is very thought provoking and it made me consider the ways our past can shape our present and future. I really loved reading this book and I highly recommend it. – Vanessa, NSW, 5 Stars

Paris Never Leaves You is a gritty story of love, loss and sacrifice. It follows the lives of Charlotte and Vivi from the streets of Paris in the last years of World War 2 to their new life in New York. Charlotte had to makes many tough decisions in order to ensure that she and her daughter survive the German occupation of Paris. It is a story that stays with you even after you have finished the book. – Lisa, QLD, 4 Stars

A tale of romance, identity and survival. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Set in dual timelines, in both 1950’s New York and Paris in the 1940’s, this book follows Charlotte and her daughter, Vivienne, through the trials of WWII and the aftermath. If you love historical fiction, or have a weakness for love stories, this book is for you! – Laura, SA, 4 Stars

Paris Never Leaves You is a remarkable novel that tells the story of a young mother trying to survive 1940s war-torn Paris with her daughter. Feldman flawlessly navigates between the main characters past and present to help show the readers that your future isn’t defined by the choices you’ve made in the past. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, so much so I read it twice! – Emily, VIC, 5 Stars

What a brilliant read. Paris never leaves you won’t be leaving my memory for a while. A story about Charlotte and her daughter Vivi and their challenge to survive in WW2. It was heartwarming to read a book with such a strong female main character. Not a book to be missed. – Claire, VIC, 4 Stars

I’ll be honest and say that ordinarily I wouldn’t go for a book like this. But I am glad to have had the opportunity to read it, as I did enjoy. It took a couple of chapters for me to really get into it, and I feel this was in part due to the writing being confusing in parts – rapidly switching scenes and overlong sentences that I had to read a couple of times to make sense of. But once I had sorted the characters and setting in my mind, it was fine and I was able to absorb the story. I was less interested in the flashbacks to wartime Paris than I was in how Charlotte and Vivi were navigating their new life in New York. The story also touches on the issue of ‘survivors guilt’ and how that affected people post war, which I found thought provoking. Overall an easy but interesting read. – Bonny, QLD, 3 Stars

Charlotte lives in Nazi-occupied Paris and works in a bookshop. She also lives in New York and works in a publishing firm. But what happened in between? Ellen Feldman’s story of WW2 is a welcome addition to our collective understanding of last century’s wars. Peopled with vivid characters beset by complex choices, this is a raw and eloquent novel. At heart, it’s about survival. More broadly, it’s about humanity. I really enjoyed Paris Never Leaves You, in particular the irony that Charlotte’s choices will never leave me. – Karen, VIC, 4 Stars

It doesn’t seem to matter how many books I read set in this era I always find them compelling. There’s always another story, a different perspective, some other point of view to this remarkable time in history. Paris Never Leaves You is a bittersweet story of one woman’s courage amidst the chaos of this era. It weaves together a story of hope and horror, of love and loss and impossible choices that are forced upon one woman to protect her daughter. It’s a story that will keep you turning the pages as yet another twist arises in the plot. It’s a great read! – Belinda, VIC, 4 Stars

I know they say to never judge a book by its cover but in this case, the cover is definitely what drew me to the book in the first place… it is beautiful! Paris Never Leaves You is a captivating story of survival and love. It has a dual timeline, alternating between 1940s Paris during WWII and 1950s New York where Charlotte and her daughter Vivienne now live. I really enjoyed this aspect as most historical fiction I have read have focused on one particular event over a short period of time. While I did not necessarily connect well with the characters, the story nonetheless kept me intrigued. Charlotte is faced with impossible choices to keep her young daughter safe during the war and ultimately deals with survivor’s guilt once in New York. It is a fast-paced read and kept me guessing until the end. I would recommend this to others who enjoy WWII historical fiction. – Siobhan, WA, 4 Stars

Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman I won this book from Better Reading and was looking forward to reading it mainly because I loved the title, the story sounded interesting and I loved the fact that it was a historical fiction novel which is my favourite genre. Although I enjoyed the book at the start I became lost along the way and disconnected with the story and some of the characters. It alternates between Paris in 1944 and New York City in 1954. The story goes from WWII in occupied France and then moves to New York where Charlotte, a war widow and her daughter Vivi make a new life for themselves. Charlotte struggles to run the bookstore and raising her daughter after the war. Whilst working in the bookstore Charlotte meets a German officer, a regular to the bookstore who takes an interest in Charlotte and her daughter, secretly bringing them food and medicine. Although Charlotte is reluctant to accept his gifts and doesn’t trust him their friendship grows. Years later, Charlotte’s choices come back to haunt her in her new life in New York City where she works for a publishing house. The German doctor finds Charlotte in Paris and sends her letters she doesn’t read and throws out. Her now teenage daughter, Vivi is curious to know more about her father and heritage. I didn’t love this book, but I did enjoy reading sections of it. – Vilma, Victoria, 2 Stars

Paris Never Leaves You was compulsively readable. The book was initially set during wartime in Nazi occupied Paris. Charlotte was a survivor who showed ultimate strength and grit to keep her baby safe through the challenges of war. If you love historical fiction you will enjoy this beautiful story of resilience and love. – Kelly, QLD, 5 Stars

Paris Never Leaves You was an easy read and a bit of a different take on other books I have read about women surviving through World War 2 as well as being a love story with the enemy. Even though it was fiction, bit hard to believe that a bookshop in Paris would be able to survive so long when you couldn’t even get food. Did I like the book? Not really. Would I recommend it as a book to buy? Probably not. – Julie, WA, 2 Stars

A captivating novel that had me hooked from beginning to end. Reading about what Charlotte had to endure and overcome in Paris had me both captivated and anxious. The choices she had to make to ensure her and Vivi’s survival is testament to the strong and courageous nature of a mother. – Madelaine, NSW, 4 Stars

The opening sentences of the Prologue had me catching my breath and drew me into the story right away. The fear, anxiety and desperation Charlotte is going through has my heart racing and sparks a fight-or-flight feeling in my chest while I am reading. I should have started reading this during the day, rather than just before bed. Paris Never Leaves is a book I did not want to put down. I’d hurry back to it every moment I could until it was finished. There are many puzzles to be solved in this book such as what is this letter that has Charlotte so spooked? How is she connected to Horace? How did Charlotte and her daughter reach New York? So many pieces to put together, I couldn’t afford to leave the book for too long before continuing lest I forget what I had learned. The parts of WW2 I had never considered, the decisions some people made in order to survive, justifying actions that seem to be impossible to understand, this story gives a lot for the reader to think about. – Rebekah, NSW, 5 Stars

A thoroughly enjoyable read. Charlotte is such a likeable character. A Brave Woman, who will do anything to protect her daughter. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great book. I also liked that the print was fairly large, so it’s easier to read – Bridget, VIC, 4 Stars

This is one of those books you just can’t put down. It has it all – love, war, sex, trauma, death and survival. Spanning two continents during and after the Second World War it brings to the fore “abundance vs. a world stalked by hunger, stunted by shortages and mired in misery”. Charlotte, the main character is strong and a true survivor but also questions the morality of her actions. The author delves into religion, self worth and one’s identity in a way the reader can relate to. The characters almost jump out of each page as if they are real and the emotions are so raw you can almost feel them. An easy read that is well worth the effort that will linger long after you finish the last page. – Angela, QLD, 4 Stars

Paris Never Leaves You is not your typical novel about of World War II in Paris. The story begins when Charlotte and her daughter Vivi are released from a Jewish detention centre and on to make a new life for themselves in America. From war torn Paris to New York in the 1950’s we walk with Charlotte as she continues to reconcile the choices she made to survive and her American dream. Charlottes character is refreshing as we saw her flaws and courage in equal measure. Each time Charlotte was confronted with a life changing decision I also found myself asking ‘What would I do?’ An unconventional love story and survival tale with a twist, the complexities of human nature and relationships weave their way throughout. A page turner, it was the perfect book to curl up on the couch with a cuppa. – Nat, VIC, 3 Stars

Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman puts a spin on typical WWII novels set in Europe. Charlotte and her daughter Vivi are endearing characters and their struggle to survive Nazi occupied Paris is both engaging and horrific. Feldman captures the struggle of surviving day to day with limited rations and a newborn baby in addition to the suffocating presence of Nazi soldiers. This story is told concurrently with their new life in America as a now teenage Vivi struggles to come to terms with being Jewish in a still anti-semitic world. The story is told beautifully with meaningful flashbacks to wartime Paris in which the reader is able to understand Charlotte’s reluctance to fully explain her experiences to her daughter. The ending of the story has excellent shock value which tugs at the heart strings, however I didn’t buy Charlotte’s eventual romantic interest which seemed forced and unnecessary. Overall, I found the book to be engaging with Feldman painting a terrific picture of war-torn Paris and its occupants. – Julia, WA, 4 Stars

Paris Never Leaves You and I did not connect – I was looking forward to reading this one yet I found it shallow and unbelievable. Maybe I have read far too many excellent books on this subject to appreciate a lighter take on it. Although not for me I can imagine a lot of other readers enjoying this. – Debbie, VIC, 2 Stars

Paris Never Leaves You is a wartime novel that focuses on the feelings of guilt, desperation and the hard choices made by the main characters. The plot goes from WW2 in France to New York in the 1950’s. There are no heroes in this book, just people trying to live with survival guilt. I did find Charlotte’s indecision and wariness annoying, until I realised her flaws were at the heart of this story. Through her portrayal of Charlotte and the other main characters, Ellen Feldman reflects the ongoing tragedies and psychological effects of war. I found this novel to be a powerful read. – Kerrie, NSW, 5 Stars

Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman is a confronting tale about choice and need set in wartime Paris and post-war America. Charlotte is a young mother working in a bookstore to support her baby daughter struggling with the loss of her husband and day to day struggle of living under the Nazi Occupation. The rules of social engagement have been turned on their head and accepting proffered kindness from one of the “enemy” could have deadly consequences. Fast forward several years and we see Charlotte and her daughter “safe” in America navigating new relationships as well as their own. It took me a while to form images in my head of these characters but as I continued to learn more of the backstory I became immersed in the situation… trying to imagine what I myself would do given the circumstances. Choices are never black or white and we must make peace with the decisions we make. Charlotte realises this, accepts her past for what it is and looks towards a brighter future. Ellen Feldman weaves her characters through particular times, places and situations and it is for them to make sense and meaning of it all while the reader follows in anticipation. This book will stay with me for a long time. – Lesley, QLD, 4 Stars

I love historical fiction, especially set over 2 timelines. This is a good book but the timelines get a little confusing and it took some time to get used to. I’d recommend this book for people who have an interest in occupied Paris during WW2. Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Better Reading for the opportunity to ready this ARC due an honest review. – Donna, VIC, 4 Stars

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. Based in two time zones, one during world war II in Paris during the occupation, and then in the 1950s in America. It follows a female character with a young child who is struggling to protect her very young daughter whilst living in Paris during the occupation. It really identifies the struggles of the what you will do to protect family and the guilt you feel at a very traumatic time. The female manages to get out of Paris with the help of someone unexpected, but the book really captures the issues faced by her and the guilt she carries throughout her life of the events that occurred during her time in France during the occupation of the Nazis. It also captures the struggles of bringing up her young child alone who doesn’t recall her time in Paris but finds out information as the book travels along. I enjoyed the characters throughout. I found them believable, and I could feel the anticipation and hardship gathering through the story. There are a number of twists throughout the book to keep the interest flowing and were an unexpected pleasure. If you are a fan of family life stories during the war and a feel good story, this is definitely one for you. – Elaine, QLD, 4 Stars

The best way to describe this book is to say it’s a cross between historic fiction and historic romance. I really enjoyed the second half of this book and found it exciting and also sad. Once it got to around chapter 7 it started to ramp up and get exciting. The Nazi roundups were really descriptive and quite scary. It’s a love story, but also a story about survivor guilt, mostly involving the main character Charlotte and another character Julian. It’s quite heartbreaking in places of what they did to try and survive the war and Nazi occupation. The first half of the book was a little slow to get going and also a little bit confusing. The chapters bounce back and forth between Paris 1944 and New York in the 1950’s, but there is no way to distinguish this as there is no clear outline within each chapter. If the author puts a title of the period and place within the chapters it would be a great improvement. Overall, it was a great read and the last half of the book is a real page turner. – Tracy, WA, 3 Stars

I probably would not have chosen this book based on it’s cover… you know, girl meets boy, girl falls in love, girl gets boy and lives happily ever after. I actually loved it. I love that it was set in Paris, I love that it was centred around a book store, I love that it was set in war time and I loved the main character Charlotte. The story line was enthralling. I took longer to read this novel because I was on the search for information based on references in the book to happenings at the time. I thought it was going to be just another love story but it was more about survival, respect and appreciation for those that can and will help in your time of need. Charlotte takes us through a journey of love, disconnect, reconnect and acknowledging your strength and what you have and how you came to have it. Was a lovely novel to read that instilled thought and bittersweet emotion. I will be checking out more works from Ellen Feldman. – Sharon, QLD, 4 Stars

Instead of writing a review straight after I finished this book, I took a few days to mull it over and process my feelings, because honestly this book left me with all kinds of emotions. Anxiety – about how people in war-torn France survived and what lengths they went to to protect the ones they care for; a combination of hopefulness and heartache of the growing bond and connection between Charlotte and Julian; frustration and overwhelming sadness of what the characters went through and how the story unfolds. For a novel to leave me experiencing all these feelings and more, I must say it was a job well done and served its purpose. As a lover of historical fiction and with many great reads that have come my way, I did (admittedly) set a high standard for this book. Ellen Feldman did a brilliant job in navigating between the past and present – the transition was smooth and the story was easy to follow. I am very lucky to be one of the first readers to have read this novel. Thank you very much. – Nicole, NSW, 4 Stars

Charlotte and Vivi are beautifully written characters. They have survived the occupation of their country and now have a new life in America. There are secrets and twists and a moral dilemma or two; it’s up to the reader to decide if the ends justify the means. – Christina, NSW, 3 Stars

I loved this book. I felt it a little slow but I soon fell into the story. Felt the pain, struggle ,and determination to survive in WW2. Enjoyed the strong characters and the story line defiantly kept me turning the pages. I’ve read many books set around this time, this was refreshing. Thinking this would be a stunning movie, bravo Ellen Feldman. – Sally, QLD, 4 Stars

Paris Never Leaves You is told in two timelines, during World War II and in the 1950s. I found the way the novel was written difficult to follow as the narrative changed between the two timelines but it wasn’t always clear which was which. I did enjoy the story of Charlotte and Vivi during the earlier timeline but found the plot of the later storyline boring and confusing. I feel that I would have enjoyed this novel more if it focused on the earlier timeline more. Overall, I enjoyed parts of the novel but it wasn’t one that makes me want to read it again. – Susan, NSW, 3 Stars

Thank you Better Reading and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman. Swapping between Wartime Paris and her New York life Charlottes story is intense and powerful. This story takes you into the war time in Paris where you feel you are with the character trying to survive and to keep alive during the most dangerous place with a daughter to look after. There are strong characters to a interesting story line in a scary time of survival. – Judy, NSW, 4 Stars

I really enjoyed this book, found it hard to put down, it was easy to read and I just wanted to get to the end to see what happened with Charlotte the main character. The story starts with Charlotte living under Nazi occupation in Paris and the switches to her new life in America, it is a story of learning to live with the lies and guilt of the past and move on with the future. – Michelle, VIC, 4 Stars

Paris Never Leaves You is an apt title for a powerful story which begins in Paris under Nazi Occupation. Evocatively drawn images of a beautiful city under siege, and the strength of the main character Charlotte, quickly draw the reader into a captivating tale of survival. Even in the safety of post WW11 New York, and with the opportunity to forge a new life for herself and her daughter, Charlotte cannot leave her past behind. As she faces new choices and moral dilemmas, a mother’s instinct to survive and to protect her child never leave her. The book is about boundaries; cultural and moral boundaries, those of love and behaviour, and conscience. It offers new perspectives of life during the Nazi Occupation, and raises rather than settles more questions of Jewishness, collaboration and the judgements made of other’s behaviour. As Charlotte struggles with the choices she must make both during and after the war, she emerges as an admirable and strong character. It is through Vivi’s search for identity in New York that Charlotte is finally able to confront the guilt she feels as a survivor. This is a well-researched and satisfying novel which never falls into sentimentality. – Diane, NSW, 5 Stars


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              Publisher details

              Paris Never Leaves You
              Ellen Feldman
              Simon and Schuster
              Historical Fiction, Romance
              05 August, 2020


              The war is over, but the past is never past …Paris, 1944. Charlotte Foret is working in a tiny bookstore in Nazi-occupied Paris struggling to stay alive and keep her baby Vivi safe as the world around them is being torn apart. Every day they live through is a miracle until Vivi becomes gravely ill. In desperation, Charlotte accepts help from an unlikely saviour – and her life is changed forever.Charlotte is no victim – she is a survivor. But the truth of what happened in Paris is something she can never share with anyone, including her daughter. But can she ever really leave Paris behind – and survive the next chapter of her life?Seamlessly interweaving Charlotte’s past in wartime Paris and her present in the 1950s world of New York publishing, Paris Never Leaves You is a heartbreakingly moving and unforgettable story of resilience, love – and impossible choices.
              Ellen Feldman
              About the author

              Ellen Feldman

              Ellen Feldman is the acclaimed author of Scottsboro, which was shortlisted for the prestigious Orange Prize, The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, which was translated into nine languages, Next to LoveTerrible VirtueThe Unwitting and Lucy. A former Guggenheim Fellow in fiction, she has a BA and MA in modern history from Bryn Mawr College and after graduate studies at Columbia University, she worked for a New York publishing house, like Charlotte in Paris Never Leaves You. She has lectured around the US, Germany and the UK. She lives in New York and Amagansett with her husband and rescue terrier Charlie.

              Books by Ellen Feldman


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