At the start of WWI, there was a general feeling in Great Britain that it was a lark that would soon be over. As men headed overseas to France and started battling in the trenches, the feelings soon changed to hopelessness. Will they ever be able to return home? Will they ever be able to have a Last Christmas in Paris?
Thomas Harding is spending one last Christmas in Paris in 1968. With him is a collection of letters from World War I between Evie Elliot, her brother Will, Will’s best friend Thomas Harding, and other friends and family. As Thomas reads through the letters, he revisits the past, the heartache and loss of the war, and also the great love.
I love, love, loved Last Christmas in Paris. I think epistolary novels are fun to read, it’s like discovering the story of your Grandparents told through their letters. I loved the characters, especially Evie. She lives a privileged youth growing up with Will and Thomas near London. It all seems a lark when they first go off to war, but as the war progresses, Ellie longs to both become more involved and scared that she may never see Will and Thomas again.
When going off to war, Thomas feels like it will be over soon, but also doesn’t want to settle into the family business of running a newspaper. Only when he is overseas does he realize the importance of the paper and his father, and also the importance of his friend Will’s little sister.
I also appreciated that the novel faced a serious problem, PTSD or shell shock as they called it then, squarely on and talked about it as a major part of the story.
“Life is forever changed without her without the sense of her somewhere near. Empty hours wander by as I listen for the soft tread of her football on the stair and wait for her laugher to cheer these lifeless rooms. When I close my eyes I can conjure her; the scent of her perfume, the feather-touch of her fingertips against my cheek, those intense blue eyes looking back at me. But it is all illusion. Smoke and mirrors that conceal the truth of her absence.”
“A new year lies ahead. Though I am losing hope every day that I will ever return to England in one piece – or at all – at least time marches forward, paying no heed to the follies of men.”
Overall, The Last Christmas in Paris is a wonderful novel of love, life, and war. I highly recommend it!
Book Source: Review Copy from William Morrow. Thank-you!