In most Fiction (outside of Romance and UF) I don’t need to like the main character to enjoy the story. I guess it’s because I don’t get attached to them the same way I do Romance and UF protagonists. It’s more like watching a movie as opposed to immersing yourself in a book. But the heroine, Claire, almost made a liar out of me. She irritated me so much in the beginning of the book that I wondered if I’d even be able to finish it.
Claire is an odd mix of innocence and cunning. She is not a very nice woman and I found it hard to care about her. Her sexuality is always in the “on” position and she doesn’t waste a second in whipping it out to use it as a weapon to manipulate men. She’s selfish and materialistic and doesn’t hesitate to lie, steal, and cheat her way to the top.
Claire heads to Paris after her husband catches her in a lie about her past. Her past lover is there and she plans to look him up. Although she plans to use him as a nice cushion once she gets there, he isn’t the reason she wants to go. Claire sees Paris as her perfect home. She assumes all French men are elegant and delicious, and that all Parisians have a grace and beauty that would fit perfectly with her image of herself. She couldn’t imagine a Paris where she wasn’t rubbing elbows with the cream of the crop in society.
I really had a hard time accepting that Claire wasn’t aware of the fact that France was facing the possibility of war. She was heavily involved in her husband’s schmoozing, so I find it hard to believe that she wouldn’t be up on the current news and gossip. Especially when she’s schmoozing with a German soldier in the beginning of the book! But no, she continues on to Paris, even after she learns about the danger along the way. And then she stays and risks punishment for having no papers after Germany invades? Just because she can’t let go of what she imagines Paris to be? Honestly, that girl seemed dumb as rocks. And selfish, too. She frequently put her friends in danger because she couldn’t resist putting herself in the spotlight. That’s a dangerous place to be when you have no papers.
Eventually I was able to look past Claire and enjoy the story. The turning point for me seemed to be when she became involved with the resistance. Finally we got to focus on something other than her. I liked that her friend and contact in the resistance didn’t baby her. When it came down to working for the cause, her friend had no problem pressuring her into doing what she owed them. I was pleased to see this because it seemed a lot more realistic that way.
The time period was fascinating and I found it interesting to see the story told from a day to day point of view of someone who wasn’t being persecuted. I felt that most things were sugarcoated and that help and luck came too easily for Claire, but there were a few times there that I winced over the rough situations Claire found herself in.
I never completely believed in Claire’s change of personality, but I did eventually start to root for her success. The novel was slow paced, but the events revolving around the resistance sucked me in and made me need to know what happened. I also can’t think of any other book that I’ve read based in this time period, so that was unique. Although I had some issues with the book, it eventually won me over and I ended up really enjoying it.
“You care, mon ami. You may not want to, but you do.”
Claire leaned in, her voice a harsh whisper. “Caring for something and dying for something are two completely different things. Don’t get them confused.”