3 stars

“Life doesn’t work out the way we plan, but maybe it works out the way it’s supposed to after all.”

-Kristin Harmel, The Sweetness of Forgetting

This novel tells the story of three very different people as their lives all intersect in Nazi occupied Paris during World War II.
Ruby Benoit, originally born in California, meets Claude Benoit while studying in New York City. The Frenchman charms her and sweeps her off her feet, promising to give her a great life in his home city, Paris. Ruby can never turn down adventure, and the two are married and move to Paris in 1939. However, not long after their marriage, Nazis invade France. While Ruby watches her beloved Paris begin to crumble, she can’t help but feel like her marriage to Claude has also begun to crumble.
Charlotte Dacher lives across the hall from Ruby Benoit. Charlotte is only 11, but wants to help defeat the Nazis, and knows their occupation will be especially dangerous to her family because of their Jewish heritage.
Thomas Clarke has joined the Royal Air Force to help protect his mother in London, the only family he has left. However, once she is killed in the Blitz, Thomas doubts whether or not he still has purpose. After his plane is shot down over French farmland, he knows his only chance for survival is to travel to Paris, where hopefully the resistance will find him.

If you are familiar with World War II novels and read the synopsis, I’m sure you may have noticed that this book sounds much like other World War II books. At least, this is how I felt. There was nothing extra-ordinary about the plot, but I decided to give it a go anyway.

This book is nothing groundbreaking. This story has been done before, and the writing style was not phenomenal. However, there were some things that I did enjoy.

I really enjoyed this Parisian setting. I am a sucker for any book that takes place in Paris, and the author definitely had researched Paris before writing this. I really felt like I could visualize the streets Ruby was traveling on and felt like it was just a well rounded setting.

This novel was also high-stake! The pacing was generally pretty good, and it kept my attention. Especially towards the end, this novel had my heart pounding and I was rooting for all the characters. I finished this book in 3 days, even though it is on the thicker side. I feel like historical fiction can sometimes be very drawn out, but I didn’t feel that way with this one.

Unfortunately, there were also some things disliked which brought my rating down to 3 stars.

I love stories that are character driven, and I felt like I couldn’t connect with any of these characters. Ruby was our main character, and I felt like Harmel built her to be this very unrealistic version of a woman. Ruby was always fearless, always loving, always confident, always selfless, and showed hardly any flaws. It definitely reminded me that I was reading about a character in a book and not a real person.

The same thing goes for Charlotte. Charlotte was supposed to be 11 when this novel started, but would spit out long, wise paragraphs that no 11 year old would ever come up with on the spot. By the end of the novel she is 15, but talks like a middle aged woman. I think the author was trying to convey that war made children grow up quickly, but it was just unrealistic, and made me remember Charlotte was fictional.

I also couldn’t connect to Thomas. He was in the novel far less than Charlotte and Ruby, and so when his perspective did come into play, I just wasn’t as interested. It took me out of Paris and was honestly distracting. I almost wish the author would have kept his point of view out.

I also wasn’t the hugest fan of any of the romances in this book. The book was mostly centered around romance and not the war, which wouldn’t have bothered me if I would have loved the relationships. Both Charlotte and Ruby’s relationships were too insta-lovey, and filled with cliches. To make my point, here are some direct quotes from the text:

“There was something about that girl who changed everything for Thomas.”
“Her touch was electric.”
“She was different from other girls.”
“I feel as if I could talk to you forever, without running out of things to say.”

^^all those quotes take place on two pages after the love interests had known each other for merely hours. I caught myself rolling my eyes at times.

So, yeah. If you are craving a World War II novel, there are much better ones out there, but it wasn’t an awful reading experience. I would read more of Harmel’s novels in the future, but my expectations won’t be as high next time.

3 thoughts on “Review: The Room on Rue Amélie by Kristin Harmel

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