Audiobook Mini-Review: Last Christmas in Paris

9 Dec

My book club chose a book with a little meat this month. We usually choose a light and often romantic Christmas novella for our December selection. This year our group wanted a little more. Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb was the perfect choice. This WWI-era epistolary novel tug at the heartstrings, taught us things about the era, and gave us a lot to think about — highly recommended!

An unforgettably romantic novel that spans four Christmases (1914-1918), Last Christmas in Paris explores the ruins of war, the strength of love, and the enduring hope of the Christmas season.

New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently… 

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

Hazel Gaynor is an award-winning New York Times, USA Today, Irish Times, and international bestselling author. Her 2014 debut THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME won the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award, A MEMORY OF VIOLETS was a 2015 WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY was shortlisted for the 2016 Irish Book Awards, and THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER was shortlisted for the 2019 HWA Gold Crown Award. LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS (co-written with Heather Webb) won the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award, and their latest collaboration, MEET ME IN MONACO, was shortlisted for the 2020 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Hazel’s most recent novel, THE BIRD IN THE BAMBOO CAGE, set in China during WW2, is out now.

Hazel was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015 and her work has been translated into fourteen languages and published in twenty countries to date. She is co-founder of creative writing events The Inspiration Project, and lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.

Heather Webb is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction. In 2015, Rodin’s Lover was a Goodread’s Top Pick, and in 2018, Last Christmas in Paris won the Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR Award. In 2019, Meet Me in Monaco was selected as a finalist for the 2020 Goldsboro RNA award in the UK, as well as the Digital Book World’s Fiction prize. To date, Heather’s books have been translated to fifteen languages. Up and coming, her next solo novel, THE NEXT SHIP HOME, is inspired by true events and reveals the dark secrets of Ellis Island as two unlikely friends challenge a corrupt system, altering their fate and the lives of the immigrants that come after them, out in Feb 2022. 

My Impressions:

I chose the audiobook version of Last Christmas in Paris, as I often do for my book club selections. An epistolary novel, the audiobook had the advantage of numerous narrators to give voice to the characters. While my book club really liked the format of the novel, some of them struggled at first with keeping straight in their minds just who the letters were from. They admitted, though, it did not take long to become swept up in the story. The book focuses on the years of WWI and is set on the homefront of England and in the trenches and hospitals of France and Belgium. As can be expected the letters begin with all the optimism and enthusiasm of their youthful writers. It soon becomes apparent that the war will not be over quickly, and the letters take on a more sombre and serious tone — the characters are growing up. Evie and Thomas are the main letter writers, and their relationship grew in wonderful ways. My book club members remarked on the lost art of letter writing in today’s texting world. I loved how the authors combined the mundane life back in England ( the lost Christmas goose) and the realties of war in Europe (a Christmas Day truce with both British and German soldiers meeting in no-man’s land). The novel is at turns sweet and romantic and heartbreaking. One member stated she had a hard time reading the book because she cried so much! I didn’t cry, but found the book very moving and one that will last with me a long time.

Last Christmas in Paris was a different sort of book for my book club this December, but one we really enjoyed. It created a great discussion along numerous lines. I highly recommend it.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

(I purchased both the paperback from Amazon and the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

2 Responses to “Audiobook Mini-Review: Last Christmas in Paris”

  1. Cindy Davis December 9, 2021 at 11:00 am #

    Sounds like a great book, thanks for sharing.

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