When we make a choice, we never know what the consequences of that decision will be. We can only hope that it will turn out for the best.
In Kristin Harmel‘s 2018 book, The Room on Rue Amelie, Ruby is a young woman in the late 1930’s. Attending college in New York City, she meets and instantly falls in love with Marcel, a Frenchman from Paris. After the wedding, they move to Marcel’s hometown. At first it seems as they are in newlywedded bliss. But then World War II starts and their marriage is forever altered. The man she married and the man who stands in front of her are two different people.
After he is killed, Ruby discovers that her husband was part of the resistance. Picking up where he left off, she hides Allied soldiers who have landed in enemy territory. One of them is a RAF pilot who Ruby immediately connects with. She also takes in Charlotte, the young daughter of her Jewish neighbors who have been arrested. As the war continues on, the level of danger grows tenfold. They know they want to survive, but fate may have other plans.
I really enjoyed this book. Harmel’s story of love, resistance, fate, and hope is emotional and powerful. The relationship that kept me going was the one between Ruby and Charlotte. Their sisterly bond was the strongest among the characters, keeping them both going in a time when their circumstances could have easily broken them.
*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. The truth of human sexuality is that it has always been a spectrum. But for most of our time on Earth, the only acceptable sexual relationship has been between a man and a woman. It is only in the last few decades (depending on where one lives) that members of the LGBTQ community are free to live and love as they want to.
On World on Fire, Webster O’Connor (Brian J. Smith) is an American doctor working and living in Paris as World War II rumbles on the horizon. He is also gay. Before the Germans invade the country, Webster is able to live openly as a gay man (well, as much as one could back then). Happily involved with Albert Fallou (Parker Sawyers), Webster does not listen to his aunt, Nancy Campbell (Helen Hunt) when she strongly recommends that he return to the States.
Then the Battle of France happens and Webster is stuck behind enemy lines. As both an American and a member of the LGBTQ community, he knows how dangerous it is to remain in France. But his Caucasian complexion and his assumed Christian faith have so far kept Webster off of the Nazi’s radar. Feeling that he has to do something, Webster and his colleague/nurse Henriette Guilbert (Eugénie Derouand), hatch a plan to get prisoners of war out of France before the Nazis can get their hands on them.
To sum it up: I suspect that many people in Webster’s situation would have taken his aunt’s advice. Having stayed for love, Webster is completely aware of the situation he is now in. But. he also knows that doing his part to save lives is dangerous. Having the courage to do that makes him a hero in my book.
Iconic is a label that is often used lightly without considering the context of what or whom is considered to be iconic. The Notre Dame Cathedral is a building that is automatically labelled iconic, for good reason.
Construction on the cathedral initially began in 1163. It ended after nearly 200 years of work in 1345. An untold number of generations of parishioners and visitors have marveled at the beauty of the architecture of this building. It is one of the finest creations that mankind has ever built. Yesterday, it was nearly destroyed by fire. Thankfully, the fire was extinguished before the cathedral could be completely destroyed along with the priceless historical and religious objects that it houses.
I’ve never been there, but I can imagine how awe inspiring this marvel of human ingenuity is.
I feel for the people of Paris and the worshipers who consider Notre Dame to be their church. Regardless of faith, this church belongs not only to the people of Paris, but to the whole country. It is theirs to love, cherish and worship under, if that is their prerogative. Ask any religious person and they will likely tell you that their specific house of worship is akin to their second home. I feel the same way about the synagogue that my family attends. I don’t attend very often, but when I do, it’s like snuggling under a warm blanket with a hot drink on a cold winter night.
It will take time to rebuild, there is no question. But this ancient and beloved house of worship will return to her former glory, that I know is certain.
It’s Friday. I should be overjoyed that my work week is over. I should be looking forward to sleeping in the next two days and not having to get up at the crack of dawn to go to the office.
Instead, my heart is heavy. It is heavy from the grief coming out of Paris. As of the most recent headline, at least 120 innocent people are dead. The attacks were not random, they were planned. The people who are responsible for the unnecessary loss of life knew exactly what they were doing.
My office is very near where the Twin Towers once stood. As I was walking back from lunch, I couldn’t but help admire this building of glass and metal. I also can’t help but think of the not only the lives lost 14 years ago, but the innocence that we had then about our world.
I can only hope and pray that whomever is responsible for this heinous act is brought to justice and the full measure of the law is brought upon them.
I am a born and bred New Yorker, but my heart tonight is in Paris.
Running away from our problems never solved anything. Running away usually creates more problems. But what happens when we run away and instead of adding to our troubles, we find a way to face them?
In The Witch Of Painted Sorrows, by M.J. Rose, Sandrine Salome is running from her life in New York City. More specifically, she is in mourning for her father and running from her cold, cruel husband. She runs to Paris, the home of her grandmother, defying the order to stay away. Sandrine discovers that her grandmother’s lavish, loving home is closed up. Her grandmother is not just any woman, she is famed and respected courtesan, known for taking lovers from only the highest levels of society.
While in Paris, Sandrine meets Julien Duplessi, a young architect who is as eager as she is to discover the secrets of the past. As Sandrine begins to understand the mysteries that have been hidden from her, she is possessed by La Lune, a 16th century courtesan. But will La Lune hurt or help Sandrine?
This book is a slow burn of a read. In most cases, a book that is a slow burn to read is not bad. In this case, it was too slow of a burn. I just wish that the author would have gotten to the end faster instead of having just too many breadcrumbs for the reader to follow. Other reviews have lavished praise on this novel. While it was enjoyable to read, I would not be so quick to say that it was the best book of the year.
Over the years, Paris has developed a reputation for being a romantic city.
But like every city, there is a dark side.
During World War II, French Jews were forced out of their homes and rounded up in the infamous Vel D’Hiv roundup. Before the war, the Veldrome d’Hiver was an indoor cyling track. During the war, it was the first stop to the Nazi ghettos and concentration camps.
In 2008, Tatiana de Rosnay published Sarah’s Key. In July of 1942, Sarah is a 10 year old girl living in Paris. When the Nazis and their collaborators begin for force the Jews of Paris from their homes, Sarah convinces her younger brother to hide in the cupboard. She thinks that she will be returning home in a few hours.
On the eve of the anniversary of the roundup in 2002, journalist Julia Jarmond is writing an article on the Vel D’Hiv roundup. Through her research, she discovers that her family is connected to Sarah’s family and follows Sarah after her family is forced from their home. As she goes through this process, she begins to evaluate her marriage and her life.
In 2008, Sarah’s Key was made into a movie with Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia.
I read the book a few years ago and saw the movie while it was in theaters. I’m no stranger to Holocaust movies, but this movie brought me to tears. One aspect of the book and the movie that I liked was that the brutality that the victims experienced compared to Julia’s humanity and curiosity about Sarah.