CLEARFIELD – The AAUW Books-Sandwiched-In series at Shaw Public Library continued with a review presented by Gayle Gearhart. The book she chose was Paris: The Novel written by Edward Rutherfurd.
Gearhart opened her presentation with the intriguing statement that the main character of this historical fiction is the city of Paris itself. Paris is the star, described by the author as “City of love. City of dreams. City of splendor. City of saints and scholars. City of gaiety. Sink of iniquity. In 2,000 years, Paris had seen it all.”
According to her, the reader views Paris through the eyes of six families primarily over the time period of 1875-1920’s. These families are a diversified group: aristocrats, merchants, laborers, Jewish antique and art dealers, all of whose lives intertwine over the years. Their fortunes ebb and flow as the circumstances of history impact their existence.
Unlike many historical novels, which follow a chronological order, she said this story moves back and forth in time across the generations. She said there is a wealth of memorable characters, both fictional and real.
Gearhart revealed that she found the story of two brothers particularly riveting. According to her, Thomas and Luc Gascon grew up in the slums of Paris. Thomas becomes a productive member of the working class, helping with the building of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.
Steadfast and true, she said he spends years searching for the woman of his dreams, who he spotted on the street and fell in love with at first sight only to lose her in the crowd. Luc, on the other hand, she said is drawn to the seamier side of Paris. Charismatic and conniving, she said he excels at manipulating his way into everyone’s lives.
Although Paris is a work of historical fiction, Gearhart noted that it is a commentary on the time period. She said it provides powerful history lessons of religious persecution, revolution and war, as well as the triumph of art and literature. Through the lives, loves, adventures and misadventures of the families that come to life in its pages, Gearhart said Paris immerses the reader in the events of that time and place.
In closing, Gearhart expressed what a truly enjoyable experience it was reading this book. She characterized the text as being beautifully written with rich male and female characters that the reader comes to love.
Gearhart said that her enjoyment and recommendation of the book were echoed at the Historical Novel Society Web site where a reviewer wrote: “Rutherfurd’s latest is as grand and engrossing as Paris itself, and it belongs on the must-read list for any reader who enjoys richly detailed historical epics.”
Paris: The Novel is available for checkout or hold at Shaw Public Library. Other books by the author available at the library include The Princes of Ireland: A Dublin Saga and Russka: The Novel of Russia.
The public is reminded that the Books-Sandwiched-In series will continue on Wednesday, at 7 p.m. Denny Shaffner will review John Bard’s History of the Bucktails. Reservations for the program may be placed at the front desk of Shaw Public Library or by calling 814-765-3271 prior to Monday at 5 p.m.