Thursday, November 15, 2012
Crossing on the Paris by Dana Gynther - Book Review
About the Book:
The opulent age of empires is ending, but the great queens of the sea— the magnificent ocean liners—continue to reign supreme. Despite the tragedy of the Titanic, the race to build ever larger and more luxurious floating palaces continues, and passengers still flock to make the Atlantic crossing in style.
In 1921,the SS Paris leaves Le Havre on her maiden voyage. Aboard, passengers dine in glittering grandeur on French cuisine, served by hundreds of unnoticed servants and chefs. Below the waterline, the modern oil-fired engines throb day and night. And for three women, this voyage will profoundly change their lives.
Traveling first class, elderly Vera Sinclair is reluctantly moving back to Manhattan after thirty wonderful years abroad. In cozy second class, reveling in her brief freedom from family life, Constance Stone is returning after a failed mission to bring her errant sister home from France. And in the stifling servants’ quarters, young Le Havre native Julie Vernet is testing her wings in her first job as she sets out to forge her own future. For all three, in different ways, this transatlantic voyage will be a life-changing journey of the heart.
About the Author:
Dana Gynther was raised in St Louis, Missouri and Auburn, Alabama. She has a BA from the University of Alabama in Political Science and French and an MA in French Literature. She has lived in France and currently lives in Valencia, Spain, where both she and her husband Carlos are teachers and translators. They have two daughters, Claudia and Lucia. Crossing on the Paris is her first novel.
Crossing on the Paris introduces us to three women; Vera Sinclair, Constance Stone and Julie Vernet. All three are facing life changing periods in their lives when they board the brand new luxury liner, the Paris in Le Harve, France. It is just after WWI and life is good again. The story starts with Constance who is married to a very staid man and has beautiful little daughters. Her mother, though is suffering from a mental illness and her father seems to think that seeing Constance's sister will cure her. Constance feels it's a fool's errand but agrees to go to France to try and track her down and bring her home. Then the reader meets Vera, an aging American ex-patriot who has lived in Paris for as long as she can remember. In a fit of pique at an old friend she decides to go home to New York but is New York really home any more? Our third passenger is young Julie who is anxious to leave France and her parents who are dying inch by inch since the loss of their four sons in the War. They do not see the value of their remaining child - only the sons they have lost. They do not even seem to acknowledge that Julie is leaving or notice her departure.
Each woman travels on a different level of the ship; Vera in first class, Constance in second and Julie, since she is an employee, down in steerage. The differing levels of comfort and service are shown through the interactions of the three heroines and the others in their sections. Ms. Gynther has a magical way of bringing the details of place into the story without distracting the reader from the tale. Whether through character observations or simple asides the reader feels as if they are in the first class cabin or the second class dining room.
In it's simplicity the book shows three women running from problems and awakening to the answers to those problems but it's really much more than that. It's a story of facing problems head on and choosing to do what's right even if it's not the easiest choice. Fate throws these three women together despite having nothing in common and yet they find they are very much alike.
I truly enjoyed this book. It is more character driven than history driven and it kept me reading long into the night. All three women were well developed characters and I found them fascinating. The Paris was a fourth character as she played a pivotal role in bringing them together. They all learned something about themselves as they cruised from France to New York and the lessons were important ones.
The book is broken down by days of the journey which I found to be an excellent device to move the tale forward.
You can purchase Crossing on the Paris at Amazon.com
Disclosure: I received a copy of Crossing on the Paris from Gallery Books, a division of Simon and Schuster gratis. Any opinions expressed are my honest opinions and were not impacted by my receipt of the free book. I received no monetary compensation for this post.