Published by Ballantine Books on August 13, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
ALL THE FLOWERS IN PARIS Review
Sarah Jio’s All the Flowers in Paris is a beautifully written and compelling story about family, love, survival, and the sacrifices people are willing to make for their loved ones. Jio uses a dual timeline format to intertwine the lives of two women who each lived in the same apartment in Paris, albeit decades apart and under very different circumstances.
One timeline is set in 2009 and follows a woman named Caroline who has been in an accident and now has amnesia. Once she is finally discharged, since no family have come to claim her, the hospital staff takes her to the apartment listed on her identification and there she slowly begins the process of piecing her life back together. As she encounters people around the neighborhood who knew her and watches them gingerly skirt around her, Caroline realizes she must have been living a pretty sad and lonely existence.
To keep herself from dwelling on her amnesia, Caroline strikes up a friendship with the handsome chef at the restaurant she frequents. But as their relationship blossoms, she starts to regain a few vague memories of a man and a young child but can’t figure out where they fit into her life. Are they loved ones? If so, where are they now?
The other timeline is set during 1943 at the height of WWII and follows a young widow named Celine who lives with her father and is raising her young daughter alone in Nazi-occupied Paris. When a German officer takes an interest in Celine and she rebuffs him, he exposes her family’s Jewish heritage, forces their flower shop out of business, and then imprisons Celine’s father and tries to take her child from her as well. He imprisons Celine in his apartment, but not before her daughter breaks free and sneaks in with her. Celine now must not only fight for her own survival, but she must also hide her daughter right under the enemy’s nose in hopes that they’ll both be rescued.
One thing that really struck me while I was reading was that both Caroline’s and Celine’s storylines were compelling enough that they easily could have been standalone stories. I enjoyed both characters immensely and was very invested in both Caroline’s plight to get her memory back and Celine’s plight to survive the Nazis and protect her family at all costs. My one complaint with the book was actually that I thought it took a little too long to actually have the storylines start moving toward one another. They felt like standalones for a pretty big chunk of the book. When the two timelines finally did fully intertwine, however, via a diary Caroline finds hidden in a closet in her apartment, the end result is so moving and so powerful that it had me shedding more than a few tears.
If you’re a fan of WWII historical fiction, stories set in Paris, and stories about family and the sacrifices people make for love, All the Flowers in Paris is the book for you!
Two women are connected across time by the city of Paris, a mysterious journal, and shocking secrets, sweeping from World War II to the present–for readers of Sarah’s Key.
When Caroline wakes up in a Paris hospital with no memory of her past, she’s confused to learn that she’s lived a sad, reclusive life for years in a sprawling apartment on the Seine. Slowly regaining vague memories of a man and young child, she vows to piece her life back together–though she can’t help but feel she may be in danger. A budding friendship with the chef of a charming nearby restaurant takes her mind off of her foggy past, as does a startling mystery from decades prior…
In Nazi-occupied Paris, young widow Celine lives a quiet life with her father, the local florist, and her daughter, Cosi. When a ruthless German officer discovers the family’s Jewish ancestry, he blackmails Celine, forcing her to become his mistress in exchange for the others’ safety. The trio plans an escape, but their mission goes horribly awry and Celine’s beloved father and daughter are sent away to a cruel fate. Initially distraught, Celine fears the worst. Yet she soon discovers that Cosi has snuck away and followed her into captivity. More motivated than ever, Celine must now fight to hide and protect the person she loves most.
Parallel timelines intersect when Caroline discovers Celine’s diary tucked away in a closet, and it is revealed that the walls of her apartment harbor dark secrets. With the help of a local student from the Sorbonne, she realizes that she may have more in common with Celine than she could ever imagine.