1920s Elodie’s mother dies and she is sent live with her grandmother, enjoying a simple life. 1940s Paris is occupied by the Nazis and Marianne owns a restaurant that serves the officers. 1980s Sabine inherits a restaurant with a haunting past…
The Last Restaurant In Paris is a triple timeline novel set across the twentienth century in France. I found myself totally submerged in each era thanks to the vivid descriptions and brilliant character development.
In the first part of the book, Sabine uncovers a mystery hidden for over 40 years and a shocking secret about the grandmother she was unaware existed. She meets an elderly man who knew Marianne but his memories raise even more questions and uncertainty about the past. Gilbert has been haunted by the events of the 1940s and is now forced to reconsider his opinions based on the discovery in the restaurant.
The middle third of the book then covers the 1920s and 1930s as Elodie grows from a child to a woman. The backdrop of European politics and the appeasement of the Nazis has a profound effect on her life. This era had been well researched by the author which gave an authenticity to the plot. On the fictional side, I was swept up in the love story of Elodie and Jacques and felt a fearful anticipation about the link to the 1940s.
The final part of the book revisits Gilbert’s memories but from Marianne’s perspective. This was a little bit repetitive and I thought there could have been more emphasis on her bravery at the end. The characters have nuances, vulnerability and flaws which bring them to life and make us identify with them. I was fascinated by the moral dilemma of committing terrible acts but for admirable reasons.
The Last Restaurant In Paris is an enjoyable and emotional historical novel.
Paris 1944. To save her people, she served the enemy.
In enemy-occupied Paris, as the locals go to bed starving and defeated by the war, music and laughter spills through the door of a little restaurant, crowded with German soldiers. The owner Marianne moves on weary feet between its packed tables, carrying plates of steaming, wholesome food for the enemy officers. Her smile is bright and sparkling, her welcome cordial. Nobody would guess the hatred she hides in her heart.
That night, the restaurant closes its doors for the final time. In the morning, the windows are scratched with the words ‘traitor and murderer’. And Marianne has disappeared without a trace…
Years later, Marianne’s granddaughter Sabine stands under the faded green awning, a heavy brass key in her hand, staring at the restaurant left to her by the grandmother she never met. Sabine has so many questions about herself. Perhaps here she can find answers, but she knows she isn’t welcome. Marianne was hated by the locals and when Sabine discovers they blamed her for the terrible tragedy that haunts the pretty restaurant, she is ready to abandon her dark legacy.
But when she finds a passport in a hidden compartment in the water-stained walls, with a picture of a woman who looks like her grandmother but has a different name, she knows there must be more to Marianne’s story. As she digs into the past, she starts to wonder: was her grandmother a heroine, not a traitor? What happened to her after the tragic night when she fled from her restaurant? And will the answer change her own life forever?
A haunting and compelling story of love, strength, and sacrifice in Nazi-occupied Paris as one brave young woman risks everything to save the lives of those around her. Fans of The Nightingale, The Paris Library and The Alice Network will lose their hearts to The Last Restaurant in Paris.
Lily Graham is the author of the bestselling, The Child of Auschwitz, The Paris Secret and The Island Villa, among others. Her books have been translated into numerous languages, including French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Turkish.
She grew up in South Africa, and was a journalist for a decade before giving it up to write fiction full time. Her first three novels were lighter, women’s fiction, but when she wrote The Island Villa, a story about a secret Jewish community living on the tiny island of Formentera during the Spanish Inquisition, she switched to historical fiction and hasn’t quite looked back since.
She lives now in the Suffolk coast with her husband and English bulldog, Fudge. Her latest book, The Flight of Swallows, set in Denmark and Sweden, will be out in January 2021.