The Nightingale – Loire Valley and Paris – France – Kristin Hannah

the-nightingale-978144728307201

Why a booktrail?

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

Story in a nutshell

FRANCE, 1939

In a quiet French village, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. There’s talk of Germany trying to invade France but no one thinks that will happen. When the nightmare becomes reality, Vianne is forced to cooperate with an enemy whilst her husband is away, in their clutches.

Vianne is now in great danger for the enemy watches, waits and takes over her house and life.

Meanwhile, Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, a rebellious 18 year old falls in love with a French man. But Isabelle finds herself betrayed and so joins forces with the resistance but this is a grave and dangerous place for a young girl to be.

Two sisters in wartime and a women’s view of unfolding events

Place and setting

Just some of the locations featured in this remarkable tale of war time France
Just some of the locations featured in this remarkable tale of war time France. Touraine is in the Loire Valley where Carriveau is located in the novel

Loire Valley and Paris

On this beautiful summer morning in the Loire Valley, everything was in bloom. White sheets flapped in the breeze and roses stumbled tumbled like laughter along the ancient stone wall that hid their property from the road

The idyllic village of Carriveau, nestled somewhere in the Loire Valley. Such a picture so far removed from the horrors of war, you can’t imagine. But this is the setting for an invasion, of a country, of a life and one woman’s home as the Nazis invade and stay. The war progresses and the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes ever more blurred. Neighbours, friends, family -all suspect each other and all are in grave danger.

Children in war time are forced to grow up quickly – when Viane tries to explain that Sarah has ‘died’, Sophie immediately calls her on it – she’s Jewish she replies.

Vianne hated what she saw in her daughter’s eyes right now. There was nothing young in her gaze – no innocence, no naivete, no hope”

All the time, her husband is away, she is alone and abandoned with a Nazi soldier and the war she thinks is far away comes right up to her doorstep and causes divisions in communities which last a lifetime.

Paris

The apartment on the Avenue de La Bourdonnais The Velodrime D'hiver was where the Bir Hakim metro station is today and a plaque can be seen marking the horrific spot where Jews were rounded up Tuileries Garden Where the Nazis stroll as if nothing is wrong Boulevard Saint German and the corner of Rue de Saint Simon -where Isabelle meets someone important
The apartment on the Avenue de La Bourdonnais
The Velodrome D’hiver was where the Bir Hakim metro station is today and a plaque can be seen marking the horrific spot where Jews were rounded up
Tuileries 
Where the Nazis stroll as if nothing is wrong
Boulevard Saint German and the corner of Rue de Saint Simon -where Isabelle meets someone important

Isabelle

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Isabelle. Paris is overrun. The Nazis control the city. What is an eighteen-year-old girl to do about all of that?”

Isabelle meanwhile is a polar opposite from her sister and joins the resistance to fight the Nazis in her own way. She is young and care free, full of energy and reckless. But this vibrant energy takes her from Paris and into the resistance movement  where her life spirals into a major challenge of war time France and survival.

Where Isabelle is an active player and Vianne a ordinary civilian in an innocent town, these two women show how difficult, horrific, brutal and devastating war was on the women forced to survive in any way they could.

Whether it’s the countryside or the busy centre of Paris, the war afflicts both and devastates everything in its path.

The book is actually inspired by the real life figure of Andree de Jongh who founded and organized the Comet Escape line through Belgium and France to Spain http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1566506/Andree-de-Jongh.html

Bookish musings

Be prepared to weep when you read this book. What these women went through, what they suffered, what they saw. The brutality of it all and the unfairness of their situation – grabs you by the throat and never lets you go.

What the novel excels at is the stark portrayal of the decisions these women faced on a daily basis. Imagine having a Nazi soldier take over your home? Your children starving because of the rations, the inability to do and go where you want? The fear and the not knowing.. The Nazis do everything to break the spirit of the French people and the death camps are in full operation…These scenes are amongst the most heartbreaking I’ve ever read.

The relationship between the two sisters changes throughout the novel and the story of each one – how they came to be where they are and how they deal with their ‘ lot’ in life was fascinating and so well written. Decisions in wartime are unlike any other and these two very different personalities really gave a full and heartbreaking picture.

I can not recommend this book enough – for the sheer scope and heart wrenching pull of the story. You are right in Vianne’s house and alongside Isabelle every step of the way and it’s a poignant and emotional journey.

The strength of these characters – of women in wartime as a whole – is a remarkable angle from which to write a novel. This book pays homage to them and then some. Vianne and Isabelle show unbelievable strength and courage.

Stunning and whole heartedly recommended. Tissues should come with each copy however to save the pages getting a soaking.

And when you read the book you’ll know – The Nightingale has definitely sung.

Italy, Maranello, France, Switzerland – From Italy with Love – Jules Wake

Italy with love

Why a booktrail?

A woman is left a Ferrari in her uncle’s will, but to earn it, she must take it on an journey across France, Switzerland and Italy and send postcards from various places. Sounds like fun to us!

Story in a nutshell

Laurie loves comfort and home life- she works in a library, has a reliable boyfriend and thinks she’s happy. But when she’s offered the chance of a Ferrari and has to undertake a road journey across Europe to get it, she is somewhat nervous.

Her uncle Miles was known as an eccentric but what he is proposing – this drive across Europe with the gorgeous but unreliable Cameron Matthews as her guide… seems to be the maddest idea of all.

Cam is there for the ride in more ways than one – he’s got his eye on the flashy car and is prepared to do al he can to get it. It should be easy – he’s the guide after all.

But Uncle Miles is really the one in the driving seat – for the route is a special one and they’re about to see just what twists, turns and bumps he has planned along the way

Place and setting

France - Honfleur -http://en.ot-honfleur.fr/discover-honfleur/heritage/the-old-dock/ The old port is one of the prettiest parts of the town. Laurie is fascinated as they arrive here. Loire Valley They visit Chateau de la Mioroir in the book which is fictional but this one is one of our favourites and one of the most impressive in the area - http://www.chenonceau.com/ Bormio Town close to the Stelvio Pass area. A small medieval town and surrounded by mountains Lake Garda - Riva del Garda There was no doubt about it. Riva del Garda had to be one of the prettiest spots in Europe Maranello Home of the Ferrair and destination of Laurie and Cam’s journeyhttp://museomaranello.ferrari.com/prices-and-tickets/
France – Honfleur http://en.ot-honfleur.fr/discover-honfleur/heritage/the-old-dock/
The old port is one of the prettiest parts of the town. Laurie is fascinated as they arrive here.
Loire Valley
They visit Chateau de la Miroir in the book which is fictional but this one is one of our favourites and one of the most impressive in the area – http://www.chenonceau.com/
Bormio
Town close to the Stelvio Pass area. A small medieval town and surrounded by mountains
Lake Garda – Riva del Garda
There was no doubt about it. Riva del Garda had to be one of the prettiest spots in Europe
Maranello
Home of the Ferrari and destination of Laurie and Cam’s journey  http://museomaranello.ferrari.com/prices-and-tickets/

A trail in a car leaving from the channel tunnel and then going all the way across France, Switzerland and finally to Italy seems like a great way to travel.

Having a preplanned journey with the task of sending a postcard from each one sounds like fun and they’re soon off travelling but at first the journey is not an easy one – with two such very different personalities in the car, the ride is bumpy from the start.

This is a journey with a difference and there are many surprises along the way – think road trip mixed with a treasure hunt of sorts and a few candid camera moments and your picture is almost complete. Laurie and Cam change quite a lot from the beginning and Laurie especially, as she gets further away from her home in Leighton Buzzard and her old life.

From the Channel tunnel, they head to Honfleur , Le Mans, Orleans and to the delights of the Loire Valley and the stunning castles there. Then off to Chaumont, Bresancon, Basle, Zurich, Monstein, Bormio and Maranello

But the real challenge is the Stelvio Pass – the journey from Switzerland to Italy and all the way to the home of Formula One – Maranello

For all car enthusiasts, this will cause extreme envy – visiting Bormio and Maranello. In a Ferrari!

No spoilers as to what happens to the car and those in it, but it’s been a rip roaring ride of surprises and romance set against a real life adventure trail and pilgrimage for Ferrari fans everywhere.

Bookish musings

Well that was an interesting journey! I could feel the wind in my hair, the roar of the engine and the scenery of various countries and places whizzing by. Such a fun ride and as many twists and turns both in the story and on the road. Never been in a Ferrari but I really want to go in a real one now!

The idea that your uncle had only left you a Ferrari if you drove it half way across Europe appealed to me. Knowing nothing about the world of Ferraris. I now know a little of that buzz world and the places people go on car pilgrimages. Quite an eye opener!

All in all a fun ride and a charming story. It’s a romantic comedy and there were more than one Bridget Jones moment with Laurie! She’d be great to travel with. Laughs all the way.

A fun read with an amazing backdrop across Europe!

The Snow Kimono – Japan, Paris, Algeria – Mark Henshaw

snow book

Why a booktrail?

There is a saying in Japan that if you want to see your life you have to see it through the eyes of another….

Story in a nutshell 

A retired police officer August Jouvert living in Paris comes across a Japanese professor standing outside his appartment one day. And what the Japanese man tells him could change his life forever…

Auguste has just received a letter from a woman claiming to be his daughter. Now this mysterious  Japanese man starts to tell him the story of his own lost daughter

If you want to see your life you have to see it through the eyes of another goes the saying in Japan. But then what happens if you don’t like what you see?

Place and setting

 PARIS - Rue St Antoine Auguste Jouvert lives here and where he first meets the Japanese stranger PARIS  - 36 Quai des Orfevres Where the police staton is where Jouvert used to work JAPAN - Kamakura Where the kite festival takes place ALGERIA - Setif Omura goes here and  it’s where Jouvert’s daughter lives - in Algiers JAPAN -Tokyo and the Imperial University of Japan Omura once worked here Osaka Omura lives and where they get off the metro in Togetsu

PARIS – Rue St Antoine
Auguste Jouvert lives here and where he first meets the Japanese stranger
PARIS – 36 Quai des Orfevres
Where the police staton is where Jouvert used to work
JAPAN – Kamakura
Where the kite festival takes place
ALGERIA – Setif
Omura goes here and it’s where Jouvert’s daughter lives – in Algiers
JAPAN -Tokyo and the Imperial University of Japan
Omura once worked here
Osaka
Omura lives and where they get off the metro in Togetsu

The setting is several things in this book – both the actual settings of Japan, Paris and Algiers but also the deep recesses of the human mind and the human conscience –

Memory is a savage editor. It cuts time’s throat

Paris

Where the mystery begins and where Auguste received his letter and meets the Japanese professor. A snowy city on the Rue St Antoine where Auguste lives close to the Bastille. Belleville is the Algerian part of town not far away from his home and his mind. For his past is about to confront him on his own doorstep –

“The street lamps were lit. Rain still fell in a thin mist. The roads shone. To anybody else it would have been obvious – accidents hovered like hawks in the air”

Japan

Japan shows up two characters – one a respected professor and the other a party boy who only thinks of himself and disregards women as nothing more than conquests. The second a novelist called Katsuo Ikeda uses people to further his career. Remember the Japanese saying?

”Look at people, Tadashi. Just watch them. If you want power over people, you have to get inside them, find out what they are afraid of. Be them. It’s the only way.”

Omura is the wise man in the tale who speaks of life as being similar to a traditional Japanese jigsaw puzzle

“Some pieces are small, others large, but all are calculated to deceive, to lead one astray, in order to make the puzzle as difficult, as challenging, as possible. In our tradition, how a puzzle is made, and how it is solved, reveals some greater truth about the world”.

The Japanese setting represents wisdom, forgiveness and closure. The descriptive prose is oriental and flowing –

The events of the day jostle in her head. They settle for a moment. Then, like a flock of birds at dusk, they take to the air, whirling round and round in the sky above her”

And what of the Snow Kimono of the title? Made and sold in Osaka, its threads weave throughout the story. The Kite festival  in Kamakura is both uplifting and evocative of the joy and innocence which once existed

Algiers

The story strand which links the two man – for Auguste worked in Algiers and led a double life as an undercover government officer. His secret past comes to light and he has much to hide. During the country’s war of independence, there was a lot of pain and a sense of abandonment –

It is here where the labyrinth of Algiers’ alleyways evoke the puzzle theme of the book and the confusion of Jouvert’s mind. Logic is not present here and he struggles with both the backdrop and the ethical dilemma which he now finds himself in.

A story of many strands

The Dressmaker of Dachau – London, Paris, Belgium, Dachau – Mary Chamberlain

Dachaubook

Why a booktrail?

A young woman’s attempt to survive despite the ultimate betrayal and the onset of war. Her skills as a dressmaker will have unexpected consequences..

Story in a nutshell

London,1939.

Eighteen-year-old Ada Vaughan has just started work for a modiste in Dover Street. She would love a career in couture but first needs to escape the dreariness of family life in Lambeth.

When she meets a man called Stanislaus von Lieben, she is catapulted into a world of glamour and romance. So, when he suggests a trip to Paris, despite the rumblings of war, she overlooks all possible dangers to take a chance.

When war is declared, both she and Stanislaus are trapped in France.

But then she is cruelly betrayed and her world falls apart. These are not easy times for anyone but when Ada is taken prisoner, it will take her ultimate resolve and skills as a dressmaker to try and survive in the best way she can.

Place and setting

London Ada first lives at Theed Street Dover Street  This is where she works as a seamstress of sorts Paris Arrives at Gare due Nord on her arrival and then she moves with Stanislaus to  Boulevard Barbès Belgium They escape to Mons and then Namur  Dachau Where Ada is taken to and she ends up working and becoming the Dressmaker of Dachau
London
Ada first lives at Theed Street
Dover Street
This is where she works as a seamstress and ‘modiste’
Paris
Arrives at Gare due Nord on her arrival and then she moves with Stanislaus to Boulevard Barbès
Belgium
They escape to Mons and then Namur
Dachau
Where Ada is taken to and she ends up working and becoming the Dressmaker of Dachau

Written against a real historical background of the outbreak of war in Europe, this is a tale of one woman’s resilience despite tragedy.

Ada leads a sad and uneventful life in Lambeth, London  and so wants to escape her life. Ada became her designs, a walking advertisement for them. Working for the modiste in Dover street, the craves the life she feels she can’t have. She might feel  out of her depth in the Savoy and the Ritz where the young ladies who buy the clothes she models and then makes, but this is the life she desires.

She conjured Hollywood and the glamourous world of the stars and brought them into the drawing rooms of the everyday.

Stanislaus is a breath of fresh air amongst the  otherwise stiff fabric of her life.They go to Richmond Park and  eat chestnuts on a cold winters day, and drink ginger beer. But then he tells her ‘You belong in Paris, I can see you there, sashaying down the boulevards turning heads’.

Paris

From Charing Cross, she crosses over the continent and arrives at the teaming Gare Du Nord which is full of ‘sweating turmoil’ . Still unsure of Stanislaus and the future, this is still a way out of her life and a way ahead.

However, when Hitler invades Poland, everything changes. They move appartments in Paris and end up on the Rue Barbes. Stockpiles of sand bags line the streets and the ‘stale onion of fear’ permeates the Paris air. They flee to Mons in Belgium and then Namur before tragedy strikes….

Dachau

Alone and afraid, Ada ends up in Dachau and works, quite literarily to save her life. “They call you the Dressmaker of Dachau’ says one German guard. She is used and abused but yet her spirit never dies. It is the next stage of her journey where she will find out her fate and if she will ever hear of Stanislaus again.

Bookish musings 

A book which was both fascinating and allowed the tension and the horror of Dachau to build with the interesting build up and back story of Ada and Stanislaus and their flight across Europe.

Having got to know Ada quite well, (Stanislaus was more of an enigma for reasons which become clear in the story), I felt as if I went with her on her journey despite wanting to whisper in her ear and check if she knew what she was doing!

Dachau is a major setting in the book but it is also the culmination of Ada’s journey across several countries during war time and her journey as  a woman with a skill and desire to sew.

To use a sewing analogy, lots of threads come together and weave a tale of heartache and shocking twists! And I won’t reveal what happens to Stanislaus but…..

An enticing read and a insight into Dachau and how one woman with a skill for sewing could survive there.

Girls on Tour – Around the World – Nicola Doherty

girls on tour

Why a booktrail?

Formerly published at 5 e novellas, now you can literally travel the world with Poppy in Paris, Lily in LA, Maggie in Meribel, Rachel in Rome before heading off the to big apple.

Story in a nutshell 

Even if you’ve never met the four friends who have the most madcap adventures in far flung places around the world, here you can meet them all ‘ on tour’ for the celebrity travellers that they are. Set together in one volume, the journey almost seems like the most extravagant and mad cap adventure in the world.

Poppy, Lily, Maggie, and Rachel. Who will you want to be and where will you want to go? Well now you can now pick this perfect literary package tour. Holiday destinations and a fair few surprises and giggles along the way…

Place and setting

GIRLS-ON-TOUR

There should be a poster for this book – Girls on Tour – certainly reads like a tour and with that song ‘ Here come the girls’ ringing in our ears, this is the perfect moment to read this book.

Paris

Poppy’s off on a work trip to the city of romance. Ironic when she’s in one of her deepest dry spells. Oh and as soon as she arrives and steps off that metro at Odeon station, she sees the familiar Paris sights: the statue of Danton, broad boulevards with tall white buildings, Saint Suplice and the beautiful Jardins de Luxembourg. Oh but the two most iconic sites for a booktrailer are here too – The Shakespeare ad Company book shop and the nearby tea shop ‘ La Fourmi Ailee’ – literally translated as ‘ant with wings’. A very Parisian Jaunt around the city of love, but will it be love for Poppy?

Los Angeles

Lily in LA, where her dream role is ambushed by an all-American dreamboat. Oh the thrills and spills of the city of fame and fortune. Quirky funny observations where Hollywood boulevard reminds her of Bromley! From The treelined avenue of Abbot Kinney boulevard, this is a ride around Venice Beach and the wedding dress shops of the area. But with an American dreamboat not far behind…

Meribel

Maggie is in Meribel, where a romantic skiing holiday turns topsy-turvy.What’s there not to love with the soft white pure snow, hot chocolate, raclette, vin chaud…and plenty of eye candy too to enjoy on the slopes of the French alps

Rome

Ride a Vespa with Rachel in Rome, and follow her and her two besties around the city with history, culture and delectable men. It’s a culinary journey too for it made us want to eat olives, ice cream and sip cappuccinos although not at the same time!

Manhattan

What trip to New York would not want to recreate a little of the Sex and the City magic? Don’t be hungry when reading this for there are cocktails, pancakes and gorgeous treats galore. Oh and when the girls do Manhattan, they do Manhattan – from the tourist sites to the fun things that only girls on holiday can do. There’s a lot of fashion sights too and then Lily shares their real reason for being here..

Bookish musings

Well if you love travel, girlie holidays, thrills and spills of the unexpected, adventure and cocktails then you’re in for a fun ride! Such different characters and different settings for their quirky natures to come alive. Nice how the stories are interlinked and the friendships develop, I wanted to be the fifth girl on the tour to be honest. Thought we’d go to somewhere in Spain, Barcelona for example. Oooh I had it all planned out, the things we would do and the things we would see! I feel I know the girls well enough now to know what each one would like to do on their next jaunt away!

A lot of fun and dashing around the globe seeing each different lifestyles personality and adventures was a great literary trip. Interesting how the settings complimented the girls personalities too – and brought out such different behaviours. I had a song ‘ Girls on tour ‘ with a spice girl theme running in my mind all throughout these five picture postcards of literary jaunts and it made for a great soundtrack.

When you read something like this which could be a travelogue, love story, adventure and challenge to overcome troubles in your life all rolled into one, you just know you’re in for a great ride.

The Little Paris Bookshop – France – Nina George

6144CR67fNL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Why a booktrail?

A book about books set in Paris that reminded us of the gorgeous and very real Shakespeare and Company book emporium on the banks of the Seine. Magical

Story in a nutshell

Jean Perdu runs a bookshop in Paris but this is no ordinary bookstore – its a beautifully restored barge for one also known as a ‘literary apothecary’, as Jean possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers. Such as –

“With all due respect , what you read in the long term is more important that the man you marry”

Sadly he has been unable to treat his own sadness. When he was younger, the love of his life fled the city leaving behind a letter which he has never been able to read. But then someone comes into his life which inspires him to go in search of the past, forgotten moments, a lost love and ultimately himself.

Place and setting

aris  Rue Montagnard (fictional) but which is located in the marais area of the city where Place Vosges is a favourite place for creative types Where M Perdu lives and where he meets his neighbour who will inspire him to do good Shakespeare and Company - http://shakespeareandcompany.com/ To feel the essence of the book we think you should visit here and see if you can find Monsieur Perdu Sanary sur Mer Quai Wilson the prettiest spot in Sanary where you can see the town and the sea and the boules Cuisery - http://www.cuisery.fr/points-fort-et-Village-du-livre.htm The town which loves books and which has literary catacombs Toulon Where the journey ends or rather a new one begins....
Paris
Rue Montagnard (fictional) but which is located in the marais area of the city where Place Vosges is a favourite place for creative types
Where M Perdu lives and where he meets his neighbour who will inspire him to do good
Shakespeare and Companyhttp://shakespeareandcompany.com/
To feel the essence of the book we think you should visit here and see if you can find Monsieur Perdu
Sanary sur Mer
Quai Wilson the prettiest spot in Sanary where you can see the town and the sea and the boules
Cuiseryhttp://www.cuisery.fr/points-fort-et-Village-du-livre.htm
The town which loves books and which has literary catacombs
Toulon
Where the journey ends or rather a new one begins….

A boat with a low-slung belly, a galley, two sleeping berths and eight thousand book. Its a world apart from our world”

And the kind of this world is Monsieur Perdu

Welcome to the gorgeously named Literary Apothecary – with Monsieur Perdu looks after his books as if they were his children, who cares for them and the readers who come in looking for something special.

The barge has been lovingly restored and set up to allow people to browse on the Seine, water lapping at its sides and the iconic views of Paris all around. This is the city for reading sitting on a wall looking out at the river, spotting a place in a park, taking your book around the cobbled streets..

From this bookish Paris we are then taken on a  journey to Provence. Along for the ride is a novelist, Max Jordan – who is escaping from the publicity surrounding his best selling novel . The pair of them travel along the canals and waterways of France and giving out literary advice, literary cures all in search of Jean Perdu’s lost love.

We travel through Saint-Mammès, Cepoy/Montargis, Briare, Canal de Briare, along the Canal Laterdal a la Loire to Digion, along the canal du Centre past Chalon sur Saone, Cuisery, Lyons and all the way down to Avignon by book barge. Cuisery stands out for the fact that it’s a book town!

Oh, Cuisery! An avid reader will lose his heart here. The whole village is crazy about books…

There was room in Cuisery for anything remotely associated with literature. There was a doctor who specialised i literary schizophrenia. He was consulted by people whose alter ego was a reincarnation or Dostouesvsky….

They wander around Cuisery and its literary catacombs for a further three days….bliss you may want to linger here too.

However our journey continues to Menerbes, Bonnieux, Buoux, Lourmarin, Pertuis, Aix en Provence down to Cassis, La Ciotat, Bandol and Sanary sur Mer with the final destination of Toulon.

Sanary is the last place on the cast between Marseilles and Toulon, among all the towns made up of little white boxes…

The lanes are narrow, the houses are colouful and small…

Ah the places you will go and the sights you will see! Literary landmarks abound. And a meandering chats about books and lost love.

Bookish musings

First of all, the idea of a floating book shop is like paradise to us. A bookseller who recommends books to solve people’s problems (what the best booksellers do as books are very much like medicine and are often a much better tonic!)

We loved the whole idea behind the story – the magic of books and how books can cure all ills. There’s an author with writer’s block who travels with him and the discussions they have along the way, the people they meet and their quirky bookish adventure were fun to read and imagine ourselves on that gorgeous book barge!

There is one quote amongst all the quirky advice, recipes and other wordly advice connected to books we loved but what we particularly loved was advice on how to arrange your reads

He should group them by theme instead. Everything about Italy in one corner:cookbooks, who dunnits by Donna Leon, novels, illustrated books, essays on Leonardo….

The booktrail philosophy if ever we heard it!  And a book to pick up again and again when you need a moment, a friendly piece of advice and to be reminded of the beautiful book barge and its literary cures for life.

Totally recommended and already cherished!

Paris – The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain (Translator Jane Aitken)

red notebook

Why a booktrail?

An homage of sorts to the streets, the people and the essence of Paris. A treasure trail of sorts inspired by a lost handbag…

Story in a nutshell

Bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across a lost handbag on a Parisian street, and so does what he can to return it to its owner. Only problem is that the bag contains nothing really of note bar a small red notebook with handwritten notes jotted down….revealing a picture of someone that he feels compelled to meet.

But how on earth is he going to track down someone who has left no trace of themselves? One woman in a city full of people?

Place and setting

Eiffel tower As seen on the cover and a good way of navigating your way around the city with Laurent L'Espérance cafe 36 Rue Université, 75007 Paris, France
Where Laurent usually ends up on his morning walks Shakespeare and Company The most iconic bookstore in the capital and surely very similar to where Laurent works The Muette area Muette metro at the centre and there is a rue de la passe-muette referred to in the novel
Eiffel tower
As seen on the cover and a good way of navigating your way around the city with Laurent
L’Espérance cafe 36 Rue Université, 75007 Paris, France
Where Laurent usually ends up on his morning walks
Shakespeare and Company
The most iconic bookstore in the capital and surely very similar to where Laurent works
The Muette area
Muette metro at the centre and there is a rue de la Passe-Muette referred to in the novel

Even just the mention of a bookshop,  clues found in a lost handbag in Paris conjures up all sorts of classic images from films and a magical searching quality that pervades this short tale.

The moments before the mugging however are still and calm.

Paris is a city of millions yet Laurent must find the one women who leaves no trace of herself in her bag. Assuming she must have been mugged, which would explain the lack of purse and ID, just how will he find her? And find her he must.

He continued on his way down Rue due Passe-Mussette. L’Espérance was right at the end.

Laurent passed one of the bins, slowing down – it had taken a little time to register what he had seen – then turned back and retraced his steps

Searching for a mysterious woman using the clues she has left behind, and in Paris….. Ah a lovely French love story. Two people who will come together over a trail for the truth…

Local life in Paris is beautifully evoked as you follow in the footsteps of Laurent as he searches for the mysterious women whose red notebook he has in his hands. Not all places are real but fictional or otherwise, the spirit of Paris is beautifully evoked. Cleverly done with a few random objects which lead you and Laurent round the streets of a capital city but making you feel as though you are the only ones and this city will slowly give up its secrets to you.

There are many literary references too-

And for an extra treat – where the language will immerse you in a love story with the city and its people even more so – the book in French is entitled  La femme au carnet rouge.

Bookish musings

How charming and very French Amelie came to mind when reading it and the poetic language really comes across well in the translation so kudos to Jane Aitken for it really shines.

This could and should be a nice film. Very French and very atmospheric. A nice love story and the search for someone who has affected you even if you haven’t met them. A nice premise for a book and despite its short length, it manages to convey everything it needs to and more.

This is a Paris book – one to linger in,stroll around in, and keep your eyes open for treasures along the way.

I’m still there. Sitting in a cafe, not far from an old bookshop…

France – George’s Grand Tour – Caroline Vermalle – Translator Anna Aitken

geroge grand tour

Why a booktrail?

83 year old George and his friend Charles have long dream of going on a road trip….driving the 3500 kilometres that make up the stages of the Tour de France….

Fetch your cycle, get in your car and let’s hit the road….

Story in a nutshell

George and Charles are friends and neighbours who live in Chanteloup in France. They live a quiet and sedate life eating and drinking and watching the telly – well George is 83.

But the two of them have had a dream for a while of  going on a road trip. Now that George’s daughter Adele has headed off to South America, he wants to focus on his dream knowing that she wouldnt be able to put him off. Heck she wont even know he’s gone not as if they’re close. And following the route of the Tour de France is it.

But this is the old man version – where bikes are replaced with a brand-new Renault Scenic, complete with GPS. So when Adele calls – will she scupper his plans or can some carefully diverted phone calls do the trick?

George has a dream – and part of that dream will involve learning text speak and doing things he never thought he’d be doing at his age!

Place and setting

Notre Dame de Monts - where they stay with Georges sister at the start of the book. A clean discreet seaside town.  Brest, Finistère - where George is when Adele rings and so he sends a text telling her they’re in a hotel and getting their calls diverted! Guémené-sur-Scorff where they all celebrate the first part of the tour with a  kir. Writing in their ‘text speak’ -  “luvly cttge, nice frnt, restrant w rejonal spcialities, 2 end a lng day. celebra8d 1st stage of rouu w Kir Plumelec They drive all the way here without stopping and visit the museum of Prehistory on the square. They're keen to see the famous standing stones as well http://www.brittanytourism.com/discover-brittany/quintessential-brittany/carnac Erquy -http://www.erquy-tourisme.com/ where they walk on the beach and george considers swimming. He meets a swimmer -  Marcel  - and the three of them become friends and Marcel gives them a guided tour of the town Nantes George buys an Agatha Christie book here
Notre Dame de Monts – where they stay with Georges sister at the start of the book. A clean discreet seaside town.
Brest, Finistère – where George is when Adele rings and so he sends a text telling her they’re in a hotel and getting their calls diverted!
Guémené-sur-Scorff
where they all celebrate the first part of the tour with a kir. Writing in their ‘text speak’ –
“luvly cttge, nice frnt, restrant w rejonal spcialities, 2 end a lng day. celebra8d 1st stage of rouu w Kir
Plumelec
They drive all the way here without stopping and visit the museum of Prehistory on the square. They’re keen to see the famous standing stones as well http://www.brittanytourism.com/discover-brittany/quintessential-brittany/carnac
Erquyhttp://www.erquy-tourisme.com/
where they walk on the beach and george considers swimming. He meets a swimmer – Marcel – and the three of them become friends and Marcel gives them a guided tour of the town

Imagine two old men in a car travelling the distance of the Tour de France 2008- that’s quite a trip! And their motto?

“Down with the dictatorship of aches and pains, and down with the doctors who stuff us with pills, and down with the daily routine that’s sending us to our graves. We’ve got to rebel. And when the end comes, well, we can bow out with dignity.”

The Stages – missing out stage four as they’ve decided not to count the time the cyclists spent in Cholet. They plan quite an epic journey –

1 Brest – Pumelec the official starting point

2 Auray- Saint- Brieue

3 Saint-Malo – Nantes 

5 Cholet – Châteauroux

6 Aigurance  Super-Besse

7 Brioude – Aurillac

8 Figeac – Toulouse

9 Toulouse – Bagnères-de-Bigorre

10  Pau – Huatacam

11 Lannemezan – Foix

12 Lavelanet – Narbonne

13 Narbonne  Nîmes

14 Nîmes – Digne le Bains

15 Embrun – Prato Nevoso

16 Cuneo –  Jausiers

17 Embrun – L’Alpe d’Huez

18 Le Bourg d’Oisans –  Saint-Étienne

19 Roanne –  Montluçon

20 Cérilly – Sant-Amand – Montrond

21 Étampes – Paris –  Champs-Élysées

This might be the tour but the real trip is what they see and the people they meet along the way.

But their journey doesn’t exactly go to plan since is wayward and bothersome family members seem high intent on scuppering their plans. It might not be what they envisaged at the start of their idea but its rather a journey of grandfather and granddaughter in the end – and the overriding sense that life is one big adventure if you open your eyes and don’t accept the limitations and expectations society and other people place on you.

Old age is a grand old adventure in itself it would seem.

For the tour de France information check out the official website here – http://www.letour.com/le-tour/2015/us/overall-route.html

Bookish musings

This was both funny and poignant so a hanky is not a bad idea. Bless them both but especially George who  explains whey they are going on the tour ‘because they want to’. Well if you cant do what you want at 83 when can you?

The loss of his wife has hit him hard and it was very sad to see him think of her and reminisce. Enjoyed learning about the relationship between him and Adele – but loved the friendship between him and charles and those he meets along the way.

I willed him on, I cheered when they reached one stage and then another. I laughed at the confusion of phones and even things in his own county he hadn’t really thought about before.

But then at the end I cried – but I had one heck of  a smile on my face as I thought of George.

The Storms of War – Hampshire, France – Kate Williams

storms of war

Why a booktrail?

An epic saga of one family’s fortunes across the miles during the Great War and its impact on those who went and those who stayed behind. The first of a trilogy.

Story in a nutshell

England 1914

Life is good for the de Witt family. German Rudolf and his aristocratic English wife Verena are planning the wedding of their daughter, Emmeline, to a rich and successful man. Eldest son Arthur is in Paris and Michael is studying at Cambridge.

But this is the story of the youngest child Celia  – she dreams of escaping her cosseted world and of exploring further afield

But wars cost dreams and its the whole family and not just  Celia who risks losing it all. So she joins the war effort which takes her on a journey she might never have contemplated otherwise.

But there is one small detail that in her haste to have her dream, she has overlooked. A small detail that in war could mean something very serious….

Place and setting

This is a story of war and how it affects everyone in the smallest way. How it affects families and those who go to war and those left behind

The war trenches on the Western Front –

The novel opens with a soldier shivering with fear in a trench. This are the hard facts of war and the reality. but what was his path into getting here? The novel then is a flashback which starts to explain what life was like before the war and who the soldier was…

Stoneythorpe Manor, Hampshire is based on Bramshill House, a Jacobean house which was  used as a red cross hospital in the war and is was later used as a police training college. It is said to have many ghosts including a bride who accidentally locked herself in a chest on her wedding night and was not found until 50 years later http://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/directory/bramshill-house Loos France Micheal serves in the trenches here Pozieres France In the trenches where the rats were as big as cats London - Crystal Palace one of the camps into which Germans were commandeered during the war http://www.crystalpalacefoundation.org.uk/history/crystal-palace-timeline-1937-2005 London -Alexander Palace http://hidden-london.com/gazetteer/alexandra-palace/ London - Knockaloe on the Isle of Man one of the camps into which Germans were commandeered during the war and this is the one where Rudolf ends up - the most notorious. this BBC article on the excavation site is interesting - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/28263003
NPIA – Stoneythorpe Manor, Hampshire is based on Bramshill House, a Jacobean house which was used as a red cross hospital in the war and is was later used as a police training college. It is said to have many ghosts including a bride who accidentally locked herself in a chest on her wedding night and was not found until 50 years later
http://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/directory/bramshill-house
Loos France
Micheal serves in the trenches here
Pozieres France
In the trenches where the rats were as big as cats
London – Crystal Palace
one of the camps into which Germans were commandeered during the war
http://www.crystalpalacefoundation.org.uk/history/crystal-palace-timeline-1937-2005
London -Alexander Palace
http://hidden-london.com/gazetteer/alexandra-palace/
Isle of Man – Knockaloe 
one of the camps into which Germans were commandeered during the war and this is the one where Rudolf ends up – the most notorious.
This BBC article on the excavation site is interesting – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/28263003

the-storms-of-war1

Germans living in England at the breakout of war –

A German family living in England at the breakout of war – how were they treated and how did they manage to live with what their homeland was doing whilst their friends in their adopted land fled in fear? The De Witt family sees the fear of war from a unique perspective which provides the novel with a new and insightful view of what it was like to live in the lead up and during the war if you were German..

It would be so convenient for the Germans who live in England if there were no war. After all in a conflict, who would they choose?

An English country house in Hampshire-

When the letter comes to the house from the son who has gone to war, there is a sadness and a realisation that this will be no short time away

“Send me a kiss. All the chaps say we will be back in England before you know it, a couple of months, we think”

But time at the house is as yet idyllic and charming. A family who has earned its money from the butchers trade and who now lives comfortably arranging marriages for their daughters. But father Rudolf is a German who is soon suspected  of betraying the one country he has done everything for.

A saga in a family which spreads out over decades and countries leading back to the fortunes of the De Witt Family. The first in a trilogy which is set to explore so many other facets of this time and place.

Bookish musings

A long book but one which really looks at a unique perspective of the war – that of a German family living in England and gradually feeling the effects of war from those they have known and worked with for years. As suspicion and fear grow, so too does their dubious status in their community. Where the first part of the novel is the build up to this, the rest is the aftermath of what happens when a family get split up and when one member of the family is accused of spying.

This was a great if not long read but one which showed a new insight into the usual war story. I knew nothing of the German camps in England at the time and the workings of the Asquith government were fascinating. The calmness of the English country home and gardens contrasted well with the raw, dark dankness of the trenches and the impending war.

Pleased this is a trilogy as there were many avenues left open to explore. I shall be back for a another epic read!