Many thanks to Gallery Books and Netgalley for the chance to read and review this novel.
By now many of you may know how much I love World War II Historical Fiction. There’s something about this period in history I find incredibly captivating. Each story is so immersive in the human experience, offering some form of tragedy I’ve never before been able to imagine. After having made my way through countless WWII novels, I still find myself dumbfounded at the horrors humans inflicted upon one another. The suffering is unimaginable, no matter how many books I read. However, the constant that keeps me coming back to these horrifying stories shrouded in truth remains the same – the persistence of good. The people who fight for strangers above themselves, the stories of people offering food to someone weaker, those who harbored strangers in their homes for the sake of the cause, and countless other good deeds that may never find their way into the pages of a book. Every story, even if fictional, holds truth.
The Room on Rue Amélie hooked me from the very first page and was no exception to everything mentioned above. Though I’ve read several books in this genre, often from the same settings, each story is new and unique. Kristin Harmel did an exquisite job of capturing this dismal time in history through multiple characters, though mainly from the perspective of Ruby, an American woman living in Paris. Shortly before the war, Ruby moves to Paris with her French husband to start a life of love and independence. Quickly, life becomes less than she imagines as her marriage starts to crumble with the start of the war. Given the chance and urged to leave the country multiple times, Ruby is determined to be part of the Resistance against the Germans instead, helping in any way she can. Finally, she is trusted with the chance to be part of the escape line for downed airmen in the enemy territory. Ruby is constantly put to the test, but her faith and perseverance never waver.
“The Room on Rue Amélie tells the tale of an American woman, a British RAF pilot, and a young Jewish teenager whose lives intersect in occupied Paris during the tumultuous days of World War II.”
I prefer to go into stories as blind as possible. I simply requested this novel through Netgalley for the beautiful cover and the first few lines of the blurb (mentioned above). I was pleasantly surprised with the unexpected additions of romance during this wartime setting. I was completely engulfed in the emotions of the characters and could not stop reading this beautiful book. The story begins with an elderly couple recounting their past as one of the character’s final days approach. As the story continues, readers are taken through the expanse of the war, from start to finish. I have to give high praise on this aspect, as a lot of ground was covered in surprisingly minimal pages. Some authors struggle to fit this impressive length of time into one novel, but Kristin Harmel was able to do the effortlessly, without making the story feel rushed or as if the reader has missed important events in the gaps of time. Readers are able to feel the characters growing and changing as the war makes them weary, allowing them to feel a personal connection to the people in the story.
As I got closer to the conclusion, I was nervous all of the ends would not be able to be tied up in the few remaining pages. Luckily, my fears were completely unfounded because the ending was unexpectedly beautiful while simultaneously heartwrenching. I never saw the end events coming and was rocked to my core. I truly loved everything about this story and was touched by the writing on the deepest level. I hate to compare novels because each is unique, but I daresay this one will stick with me for years to come, with the likes of novels such as The Nightingale, From Sand and Ash, and Sarah’s Key. I truly cannot recommend this amazing book enough! Pick it up in a little over a week, on March 27th.