BookBrowse Reviews The Paris Hours by Alex George

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The Paris Hours

A Novel

by Alex George

The Paris Hours by Alex George X
The Paris Hours by Alex George
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  • First Published:
    May 2020, 272 pages

    May 2021, 272 pages


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The lives of four ordinary people living in Paris in 1927 intersect in this beautiful circadian novel exploring how losses from the past can haunt us in the present.

Alex George's historical novel The Paris Hours was enthusiastically well-received by our First Impressions readers, scoring an overall 4.7 out of 5 stars.

What it's about:

Come with me on a journey back in time to Paris in 1927. The Paris Hours is unique in that the action takes place over 24 hours. Four somewhat ordinary people are all looking for something. Souren Balakian, a tailor and puppeteer, is a transplant from Armenia. His younger brother was killed during the war there and Souren cannot get him out of his thoughts. Guillaume Blanc, a penniless painter, is looking to escape ruthless moneylenders. Jean-Paul Maillard is a journalist obsessed with the U.S. He is haunted by the soulful music that his neighbor downstairs, Maurice Ravel, plays every day on his piano. Camille Clermont is a married woman with a daughter, Marie. She was once the housekeeper of Marcel Proust. Several other famous people make appearances throughout the story, such as Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, Sylvia Beach, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein (Linda S).

Our First Impressions readers marveled at Alex George's evocative writing style:

I read with anticipation, but also apprehension, unable to put the book down. The writing is simply stunning, and I found myself rereading paragraphs, a marvel of style and description (Ann B). The Paris Hours is a wonderful book. Beautifully written, full of vivid detail and likable—albeit lost and sad—characters. I was especially pleased that all four main characters' stories did not wrap up in a fancy little happy bow at the end of the book. Their pain and loss felt more real that way (Sharon P). Rarely do I say about a book 'I didn't want it to end.' That is, however, the way I felt about The Paris Hours. Once I got used to the novel's pacing, and the alternating stories of the four principal characters, I was thoroughly hooked (Julia A). Vivid and visual depictions of various scenes, be they tender or rough, are presented in a wonderful flow of poetic prose, painting a distinct image for the reader (Lorraine D).

The author's depiction of Paris was also applauded:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I've been to Paris five times and am in love with the city. Mr. George brought the heart and soul of Paris to life, making it one of the essential characters. I could smell the aromas and hear the accordion song that is so much a part of this special place. He brought to life Paris in the '20's, when so many Americans came to explore and hone their creativity (Shelley C). The author draws a wonderful picture of the city of Paris that the residents see, the avenues and shops, etc. There are no tourist sites on the itinerary. The setting is so well-drawn, I almost felt that I was wandering there myself (Mary D).

Readers also appreciated the novel's unique structure, which weaves together the lives of four main characters:

The consistent arrangement of the chapters in repeated quartets was genius, a foreshadowing of how the characters' lives are woven together like a beautiful hair braid (Ann B). When my daughters were young I often braided their long hair. This is what author Alex George has done with The Paris Hours. On a single day in 1927 Paris, he has woven an intricate story with strand after strand of seemingly unrelated characters. We get a few hints of their relationships as the story moves along, but the ending is unexpected, and ties up the plot into a complicated braid of a story (Nancy L). The interweaving of the various characters' stories was done so skillfully that the climax when all are brought together seemed the most natural occurrence possible. Alex George is a great storyteller and a brilliant writer (Sheryl M).

Many expressed heartfelt recommendations, particularly for book clubs:

The Paris Hours is a gripping tale of four immensely sympathetic characters and their harrowing stories that I won't soon forget. I highly recommend this book and I think it would make an excellent book club selection (Laura C). I've already discussed this book with my book club members; they are waiting for its release. It will definitely be on the next reading list (Lorraine D.) I found myself plowing through this book with my reading pace rapidly increasing towards the end to discover the finale. This would be a great book club selection. I am now going to read it again at a more leisurely pace to savor the characters and what life was like in Paris in the 1920s (Dan W).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in May 2020, and has been updated for the May 2021 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)


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