Thursday, March 22, 2012

Paris Noire: A Book Review

If you are thinking about moving to Paris or wondering what it is like to live there, then you'll want to read the stories of sixteen long-time African-American and Afro-Caribbean residents in the recently released e-publication Black Paris Profiles. Click here to learn more!


Paris Noire
is a novel written by Francine Thomas Howard. It tells the story of a strong and proud Martinican woman, Marie-Thérèse Brillard, who has raised a son and a daughter, Christophe and Colette, alone in Paris. We enter their family saga in 1944, just prior to the liberation of Paris, when Christophe meets a woman who will change his life forever. Unbeknownst to him, his beloved Genviève is the wife of a member of the Resistance - a man who wills himself to survive so that he can return to her side. Colette has a love interest as well, a French man who she plans to wed.

Marie-Thérèse also meets someone who will change her life - an American lieutenant who makes her feel as no man, not even her deceased French husband, has ever made her feel before. Add to the mix a wilting flower of a Senegalese girl who Marie-Thérèse would have Christophe marry, an African-American songstress who cozied up to a German colonel to extract information important to the Resistance, and her French butler/bodyguard who is also a saxophone player, and the stage is set for what is a unique and engaging tale.

Though numerous scenes take place around the city, we are never made to feel that Paris herself is a character in the book. The deprivations of war are emphasized much more than is the beauty and mystique of Paris. Much of the story unfolds in Montmartre, where the Brillards and Glovia, the songstress, live.

Issues of race percolate through the novel, but do not dominate. The book intermingles several tales of love - the love of a mother for her children, a cuckolded husband for his wife, star-crossed lovers for each other - and illustrates the brutality that can emerge when love is betrayed. The story becomes increasingly suspenseful as it builds to a climax that is both refreshingly unexpected and tragic.

Francine Thomas Howard
Photo from Meet Francine Thomas Howard blog

Author Francine Thomas Howard is a resident of the San Francisco bay area. She took early retirement from her career as a pediatric occupational therapist to devote her life to writing. Her next project is a five-book series spanning three-hundred years and two continents. The protagonists are three young women of noble birth from Timbuktu who are kidnapped in 1706 and sold into slavery in New Orleans, and their descendants.


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