Don't be misled by the title into
thinking that April In Paris is a fluffy
romance. Life and love are both battlefields in Wallner's anguished debut of wartime suspense,
translated from German, which quickly embroils the
reader in the tragic double-life of 22-year-old
Roth is not an heroic figure, he's not even a particularly moral or likable figure. He's simply a young man who, for a few sanity-restoring minutes, escapes his despised life as a translator posted to the Gestapo's interrogation unit, to become "Antoine", a French student, and ends up falling in love with a member of the French resistance. This relationship forces him to face an untenable moral dilemma between obedience to the Reich and following his heart, with appalling consequences.
First-time novelist Wallner paints an image of Paris facing its 3rd year of occupation that is both brutal, romantic and heart-wrenchingly sad. His descriptions of the Gestapo interrogation techniques are particularly powerful because he avoids gratuitously graphic detail in favor of understated descriptions that clearly illustrate the casual efficiency with which the Gestapo interrogators went about their business. It is one thing for a soldier to kill in the heat of battle, but quite another to observe a man coolly considering the most efficient methods to break a fellow human through torture.
If you have enjoyed books such as The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra or Sebastian Faulks' Charlotte Gray you're likely to find much to appreciate in April in Paris.
About the Author & Translator
Michael Wallner is an actor and screenwriter. He divides his time between Berlin and the Black Forest. April in Paris, his first book, is translated into English by John Cullen who has translated more than 15 books from French, Italian, German and Spanish including Susanna Tamaro's Follow Your Heart from the Italian, Christa Wolf's Medea from the German and Yasmina Khadra's The Swallows of Kabul from the French.
This review was originally published in June 2007, and has been updated for the April 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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