This is part of my Summer Reads series where I’ll be reviewing a series of “not just cookbooks”.
This week’s selection for Summer Reads is part-mystery, part-memoir, part-history book set in wartime and post-war Europe and Australia and once I started it I couldn’t put it down. I read it in one sitting – again, record temperatures in France last month helped up my reading quotient significantly as that was practically all one could do in the heat! I was glad to have such great company during those hot days!
From the publisher:
When Louisa Deasey receives a message from a Frenchwoman called Coralie, who has found a cache of letters in an attic, written about Louisa’s father, neither woman can imagine the events it will set in motion.
The letters, dated 1949, detail a passionate affair between Louisa’s father, Denison, and Coralie’s grandmother, Michelle, in post-war London. They spark Louisa to find out more about her father, who died when she was six. From the seemingly simple question ‘Who was Denison Deasey?’ follows a trail of discovery that leads Louisa to the libraries of Melbourne and the streets of London, to the cafes and restaurants of Paris and a poet’s villa in the south of France. From her father’s secret service in World War II to his relationships with some of the most famous bohemian artists in post-war Europe, Louisa unearths a portrait of a fascinating man, both at the epicentre and the mercy of the social and political currents of his time.
A Letter from Paris is about the stories we tell ourselves, and the secrets the past can uncover. A compelling tale of inheritance and creativity, loss and reunion, it shows the power of the written word to cross the bridges of time.
As an Australian, who studied journalism (ultimately leaving my programme one year in) who’s also a huge Francophile, so much of this book appealed and spoke to me. Louisa’s determination to get to the bottom of the “Who was Denison Dearsey?” story was something I could definitely relate to (tackling seemingly insurmountable projects); and I wondered how this quest and ultimately, her realisation at being in way over her head as she started the research process would translate to the pages of a memoir.
Her father’s history was so messy – a ton of disorganised papers in libraries – and disjointed (most of what she knew about her father was second or third hand, even rumours and hearsay) that for a few pages I wondered if I’d be able to keep up. In fact, Louisa manages to keep a number of different plot lines (present day and various periods and places) going simultaneously but it’s much easier to follow than you imagine, especially given how complex the story ends up being. The connections between post-war France and Australia were really intriguing and you’ll be telling yourself “just one more chapter” until you realise you’ve finished the book! Most definitely a “read in one or two sittings” book though as there is a lot going on.
This book is for anyone who has ever wondered about their family history, history, mystery and memoir lovers as well as armchair travellers. Highly recommended as a Summer Read (and I can’t wait for An Australian in post-war Paris – Louisa’s dad’s lost post-WW2 memoir, publishing in late 2020).
A Letter from Paris releases October 1st 2019 in the US.
Please note: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. This post also contains affiliate links from The Book Depository. This means that if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you). Thank you in advance!
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. I have not been compensated for writing this post. All opinions are my own.
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