**Disclaimer: I was kindly sent a free copy of When Paris Was Dark by Y.M. Masson in exchange for an honest review.
When Paris Was Dark by Y.M. Masson is a historical fiction account of the life of a young boy named Alain who lives in Paris during the German occupation in World War 2. It is inspired by events from the author’s own life. It was published on April 29th, 2019. I gave it three stars on Goodreads.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
When five-year-old Alain, a little boy living in Paris, is strafed by German planes at the onset of the German invasion in 1940, his world is instantly turned on its head. During the next four years, like the children who fight to survive today’s many conflicts around the world, he grows up fast and must be mentally strong and alert to stay safe. With limited parental support, Alain and his young friends face increasing deprivation, devastating hunger, and constant fear of the occupying Germans soldiers, with their intimidating rules and random street blockades and checkpoints. He also dreads the Allies’ air raids, although he knows the bombers are on his side.
After being silent for four years, one day all the churches of Paris ring their bells to celebrate the end of the occupation, and Alain welcomes the American GIs who fought bravely to liberate him. His story–of fear and courage, despair and determination–is laced with the realism only an author who lived through the occupation himself can provide, bringing this bittersweet, beautifully rendered novel to vivid life.
About the Author: Born in Paris, as a young boy Yves Masson experienced the hardships of German occupation. After serving in the French army during the Algerian war, he left France for New York City in 1965 and became a United States citizen in the early seventies. He lived in New York, Georgia, and California, and has made Florida his home state since 2011. After working as a marketing executive in Corporate America and running his own consulting firm, Yves turned to the arts. He is an accomplished portrait artist, but he feels it is more important to share his life experiences with his readers. Yves knows what war does to people and especially to children. His ability to describe the daily fears, the devastating hunger pains, and the despair of deprivation and coercion draws his audience into the struggle for survival of his young characters.
I have to admit that this wasn’t my favourite book of the year, which I’m sure you could tell by my rating of 3 stars. However, I want to start off with the positives of this story, before I segue into the negatives of it.
The main thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the historical aspect. I have always enjoyed learning about history and the world wars are of particular interest to me. That’s why I was drawn to this book, because I wanted to learn more about the war and I also wanted to read about it from this particular point of view. It’s not very often that you read about it from a young child’s perspective and not from the perspective of a child in occupied Paris. That is a really unique feature of the book. I also enjoyed that it was based on true experiences, and drawn from the author’s own life. It made me wonder how much of it was true and how much was fictionalized.
I felt that the depictions of the world Alain was growing up in was really intriguing. I did feel like I was learning more about what life would have been like and I found the day to day of his life very interesting. It was hard to hear about the suffering that they went through with rationing and also with curfews and the blockades. However, Alain’s life specifically was also hard to read about because his home life wasn’t the most happy thing. It would be hard enough growing up in occupied Paris, but it wouldn’t have helped to be him with his father who didn’t really seem to care about Alain or the rest of his family, and his mother who meant well but who was definitely more focused on her younger son. You did really empathise with Alain who was kind and resilient and had quite the streak of luck.
The moments of excitement were spread out through the story in a way that kept you interested and wondering what would happen next. I knew that it was inspired by the author’s life, but I still couldn’t help but wonder if Alain would make it through. The story had a really good resolution.
However, this book had one big thing that kind of made me bring my rating down. The dialogue was kind of cringey. It didn’t feel like something that characters from the 1940s would say, though I have to admit I don’t know a lot about what people talked like during the 1940s. It was just a bit jarring and took me out of the story. That was part of the reason why it took me so long to get through this book, because despite being interested in the history, I struggled to take the dialogue seriously. There were also parts of the dialogue that didn’t feel like something that people in real life would say. It just came across very stilted. I know that perhaps that isn’t the biggest complaint to have, but for me it really threw me out of the frame of the story.
However, that being said the historical aspects of this book were totally worth it, and if you’re at all interested, it might be worth checking out. As for me, I am glad that I read this book though I’m not sure I’ll ever revisit.
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