Last Train to Paris

Michele Zackheim. Europa (Penguin, dist.), $17 (256p) ISBN 978-1-60945-189-9
Loosely based on the real-life kidnapping of the author's distant relative, Zackheim's latest novel is set in 1937 in Paris on the brink of WWII. Rather than focus on the victim of the crime, the story centers on her cousin, Rose Manon. Rose is a serious young woman who escapes her dusty Nevada roots to become a working journalist. She loves the rhythm of putting pen to paper and using words to make sense of the world—the "thrill" of turning a page to find her byline: "R.B. Manon." But all is not fun and games even as her career as war correspondent picks up; she is in-and-out of love with the tortured Leon, her cousin Stella has come to Paris and promptly been kidnapped, and Hitler has risen to power in Germany and, as a result, Rose most conceal her Jewish roots. Despite these compelling circumstances, the novel feels sketchy and light in a way that dampens its suspense. Key characters, like Stella lack the fullness of real-life people. At times the prose is lovely and precise and at other times it is rushed into cliche. Still WWII enthusiasts may appreciate this quieter evocative look at a much-examined era. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/20/2014
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-60945-179-0
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