Genre: YA Historical Fiction
March 1871, and after months under siege, France surrenders to Prussia, betraying Paris whilst revolution brews once again. Zephryine has led a tough life during the war, but Paris Commune gives her hope for a better life. Soon after the Commune’s formation, she meets a charming violinist called Anatole, and the pair soon fall for each other and hope for a better way of life. But their friends, Jules and Marie are not so sure and as Paris comes under attack, the four must do whatever it takes to survive.
I am a massive fan of historical fiction, and so when I heard about this book set in a time period I was unfamiliar with, I was immediately interested. This story of revolution, love and friendship was extremely well crafted and I really enjoyed it.
Syson’s writing manages to balance dialogue, description and information perfectly, bringing to life the Commune of Paris in 1871. I felt like I was transported there and enjoyed the detail she put into her writing to bring the setting and time period to life. The dialogue between the characters felt realistic and true to the time, and it is evident that Syson has put a lot of research into the writing of this novel.
The characters in this book are probably the stand out point – all are extremely engaging and well-developed people. The four main perspectives all come from different social backgrounds; Jules is an American photographer who never has to worry about money, whereas Zephryine is an orphan an destitute. Seeing these different characters interact with each other and the Commune was fascinating and I really enjoyed the discussion of class and how it affected the path of the characters.
I particularly enjoyed the range of female characters we got through Zephyrine, Rose and Marie – all very different but well realised women with their own stories. Zephryine and Rose are active participants in the Commune, attending debates and speeches and fighting for their equality. I really appreciate how much Lydia Syson acknowledges the role women played in the Commune and revolution on both sides, and the complexities surrounding this.
This book is one of a slower pace, and at times I did feel my mind wander whilst reading it. I also wasn’t 100% sold on the romance but I am a hard sell when it comes to romance, which I completely understand! Overall though I did find this an enjoyable read with engaging and complex characters and a brilliantly researched historical backdrop.