The week before Christmas is the perfect time to curl up with a holiday story. Whether it be a long drive cross country, a few stolen moments between festivities, or a quiet afternoon by the tree, a Christmas novel is the best way to warm the heart and get you into the spirit of the season. Over the next seven days I will be sharing the books I am indulging in this season, and hopefully you find one that speaks to you too.
“From all that I have seen here, what the men need most when they are suffering is to feel a woman’s love, feel cared for, to know that their sacrifice means something.”
Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb is an epistolary novel taking place during the first World War. Through a series of letters we follow the progress of the war and the lives of the people taking part in the fight. Evie, Will, Thomas and Alice day dream of a Christmas in Paris, a dream that is cut short with the advent of War World I. Instead the four are separated to various parts of England and France when Will and Thomas join the fray as commissioned officers. The two men grow up quickly in the face of violence and conflict, having to overcome wounds both physical and mental.
Evie is a spirited young woman when the story begins, struggling to break free of the lady’s mold society expects her to fit in. She wants adventure, to write, and as the war goes on to make a difference. Through letters childhood friendship gives way to a deeper connection, bringing light to one of the darkest times in the twentieth century.
The story was a sweet one, but though Christmas may be in the title, Last Christmas in Paris is a novel that can be read at any time of year. I loved learning more about World War I through reading the book, a war I feel does not receive as much notice as its monstrous younger brother World War II. I thought the women’s perspective was a great twist, showing a side of war that most stories overlook. It reminded me of my own experiences when my husband was deployed in the Marine Corps, those letters that are an anchor when the world seems ripped apart.
The letter form makes the perfect book to pick up and put down, and I loved the varying perspectives. Letter writing is a beautiful art that I wish we still did as a society. As Evie writes in one of her correspondences, “Letters make one uncommonly honest, don’t you think? I’ve told you thing sin words that I would have been far too shy or distracted to tell you in person.”
I think this song sums the spirit up nicely. Keep a Kleenex close by though.