Paris Never Leaves You By Ellen Feldman: Book Review & Summary

Paris Never Leaves You | Ellen Feldman | Macmillan

Paris Never Leaves You | Ellen Feldman | Macmillan

Paris Never Leaves You presents a captivating portrayal of a woman’s journey of love, survival, and grief during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Written by Ellen Feldman, an accomplished author known for her works, “The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank” and “Next to Love,” this book was greatly anticipated by her loyal readers as well as fans of the historical fiction genre.

Plot Summary

The novel is set in the year 2000 in New York City where Charlotte Foret is now living with her daughter, Vivi. As Charlottle walks through the lobby of a publishing house, she notices a book written in French with the words “To my Charlotte, with all my heart” inscribed on it. These words trigger a great flood of sorrowful memories of her past in Paris during World War II.

Charlotte, a single mother, could not leave the city of Paris even though the Germans supported the Vichy government. The story follows her life in the city during the war and the challenges she had to face to protect her daughter. As Charlotte navigates her way through the dangers of the Nazi occupation of Paris, she falls in love with a German officer, but the affair comes to a tragic end and leaves Charlotte heartbroken.

The book picks up speed as it moves between the present day and Charlotte’s past, revealing a gripping tale of love, loss, and survival.

Main Themes and Ideas

Feldman presents various themes throughout the novel, including the different forms of love, family, and the challenges of choices made during war. Charlotte, the protagonist of the story, battles with inner turmoil as she falls in love with a German officer during the Nazi occupation of Paris. She is torn between her love for him and her loyalty to her daughter.

Feldman highlights the role of women during the war and their fight for autonomy and independence. Charlotte is portrayed as a strong woman who refuses to let her gender define her, and she constantly fights against the societal norms that dictate how she should conduct herself.

The novel also addresses the impact of war on mental health. Charlotte suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and struggles to come to terms with the events that took place during the war.

Writing Style and Effectiveness

Feldman uses a style of writing that is both vivid and descriptive, plunging the reader into the heart of Paris during World War II. As the story weaves between past and present, the reader is constantly kept at the edge of their seat trying to anticipate what will happen next. The characters are well-developed and realistic, allowing the reader to relate to their joys and struggles.

However, there are moments in the novel where the plot seems to slow down and lose momentum. The extensive use of flashbacks can also be confusing for the reader at times, as it requires concentration to keep track of the different timelines of the story.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The novel’s main strength lies in its ability to portray the complexities of love and loss during the wartime in a realistic and relatable way. Feldman’s vivid descriptions of Paris during occupation are engaging and transport the reader to the sights and smells of the city. Charlotte is a dynamic character whose indecision is both endearing and frustrating to the reader.

The novel’s main weakness is the pacing of the plot. There are times when the story seems to come to an absolute halt, and it can be tedious for the reader to push through some of the slower moments. The novel’s ending is also slightly disappointing, as the reader is left wanting a more satisfying closure to the story.

Comparing Paris Never Leaves You to Other Works in its Genre

Paris Never Leaves You shares similarities with other historical fictions on the Nazi occupation of Paris, such as Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale” and Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “All the Light We Cannot See.”

Although its story is unique, the relevance of themes and the time period makes for an easy comparison between all these novels. However, in terms of quality, “All the Light We Cannot See” stands out as a stronger work of literature, with its engaging and lyrical prose. It manages to beautifully capture the heart and soul of Paris and its residents during the war.

Final Thoughts and Recommendation

In conclusion, Ellen Feldman’s Paris Never Leaves You is a poignant and heartfelt novel about love, loss, and survival during wartime. While it has its flaws, the book’s overall strengths outweighs the weaknesses and makes for a compelling read for those interested in the historical fiction genre. With its relatable and realistic characters and the portrayal of the daily struggles of war, the book is a must-read.


What is the book’s overall message?

The central message of the book is the importance of love, family, and sacrifice during times of war. It showcases the willpower required to survive and the toll that war takes on our mental health.

Is Paris Never Leaves You a true story?

No, the novel is a work of fiction but is set during the real-life events of the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II.

What age group is the book geared towards?

The book is best suited for adults and young adults due to its historical and mature content.

Does the book have any trigger warnings?

Yes, the book has trigger warnings for instances of violence, sexual content, and themes of war and PTSD.

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