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April in Paris: A Novel Hardcover – April 3, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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A girl with loyalty to both sides in a war—and the dangerous opportunity to save lives. Learn More
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wallner's harrowing debut, a love story of sorts though there's little romance, rings with authenticity. In 1943, Corporal Roth, a 22-year-old translator in the German occupation forces in France, is reassigned to SS headquarters in Paris, where his job is to translate the confessions of members of the resistance as they are being tortured. While strolling through the city, Roth encounters a beautiful young woman and is instantly smitten. Because he can speak French flawlessly, Roth takes the identity of "Antoine" and pursues the young lady, Chantal, with tragic results. Chantal is a member of the French resistance, and while Roth isn't a coldhearted Nazi, he is a German and his obsession leads him ever downward until he's accused of being a traitor. Many European imports these days read like pale imitations of genre novels by Americans, but this sterling period piece will strike readers as distinctively and refreshingly German in its concerns. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

It is 1943 in Paris. Corporal Roth, a 22-year-old German soldier, has the ability to speak unaccented French, so his superiors adjust his orders. He now works for the SS, serving as translator in the gestapo's interrogation room. He can't stomach their torture of Resistance fighters but doesn't question his role, though he longs for the ordinariness of daily life. While in disguise as a French civilian--a crime of high treason--he meets Chantal, an antiquarian bookseller's daughter, and falls in love. But the naive Roth doesn't realize the SS and the Resistance have feelers out everywhere, and nothing remains secret for long. This fast-paced thriller about a young man's unforeseen moral dilemma delivers suspense all the way through to its unexpected ending. Tragic love stories set in occupied France are hardly unique, yet Wallner rises above this overused plotline with his stylish, readable language (with just enough French to convey atmosphere); lovingly depicted Parisian setting; and well-done characterizations. Think Alan Furst with a different sort of hero, and a darker, more visceral edge. Sarah Johnson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; 1 edition (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385519141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385519144
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,783,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Corporal Roth, a German soldier, is given marching orders to work in Paris as a translator in a Gestapo interrogation room. During his free time, he comes up with a verbotener plan to dress as a native Frenchman and wander through the streets of Paris. He names himself Antoine, whereupon he soon falls in love with Chantal, a book dealer's daughter and a member of the French Resistance.

At first glance, I grew restless - and often angry - with Corporal Roth because he seemed without the expected dimension of a character trapped in harrowing circumstances. However, it is impossible not be drawn into the story as our protagonist navigates his way through both contradictory worlds. I eventually came to understand that this seeming lack of character depth might have been the intent of first-time novelist and scriptwriter Michael Wallner. He is, after all, writing about a shell-shocked young soldier without much insight into his inner or outer world looking for a way to cope with his situation.

Corporal Roth takes an incredible risk to escape reality. His assignment, which involves witnessing the torture of French suspects, is at great odds with his job of fluently speaking their language. As he follows the Seine, he is sleepwalking at the edge of the abyss and facing a great moral dilemma, but he is too numb to look down into its depths. We do not witness him struggle with ethical questions. As many soldiers must do, he blindly approaches the horror with only part of himself because he otherwise could not get the job done. It is only later that the character begins to unravel, as his courageous yet foolish retreat into illusion becomes all too real. If the stars align, this book has great potential as a film.
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Format: Hardcover
It's war. Our "hero" is German but all he wants to be is "normal".

There is no way I can describe this novel -- nor should I attempt to honestly do so. But as soon as I finished it, I came to Amazon to see what other books were available by this author (sadly...).

This is a book for readers who simply want to read VERY good books.

Buy it. Read it. I want to meet the author who can create such a complicated maze of personalities, meshing horror with innocent love. Amazing. Congratulations, Mr. Wallner.

Write me another one - please.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
More than a love story set in Paris. I would have given this five stars but it was more a war story than love story as the title suggests. Nevertheless, a great read. While it did not immediately grab me, I stuck with it and I am very glad I did. However, it starts out slowly and a bit confusing as the character build up could have been stronger. It is very difficult for me to abandon a book and I am often guilty of just plowing through to the end with little or no enjoyment. Midway, this book finally captivated me and I do recommend it for those who like war, spy and romance. Once it did grab me I couldn't put it down. A slow start but well worth the finish.
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Format: Hardcover
This short novel has a very interesting premise which drives the narration with page turning interest. Told in the first person we meet Roth, a twenty one year old German soldier who speaks fluent French. He finds himself assigned to Gestapo HQ in 1943 occupied Paris. In part the book offers an interesting view of the divergent attitudes of the occupiers and the insurgent French Resistance. More over it is an infatuation story as Roth is at first infatuated with all things French and then specifically with a French girl he notices while walking the streets of Paris. And of course the young lady is a member of the French Resistance. Roth has taken to putting on civilian cloths and pretending he is French and this alone would get him into major trouble if he were caught by the SS. The novel is amazingly dense in plot and suspense as Wallner's style utilizes short, simple and basic sentences, paragraphs and chapters. Rather a Hemingway approach and style. The story does have a few to may coincidences for my taste and yet it is a fun ride and an above average thriller mainly because of it's well written with a unique premise and plot driven narrative. The book is more than just a "beach read" and I would recommend it as a well worthwhile entertainment. (Mr. Wallner is also a screenwriter and I see a screenplay and movie coming from this material. But I don't feel confident any movie would be believable or provide the book's first person narrator Roth any justice.)
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Format: Paperback
This is the story of Michael Roth, a German soldier who is stationed in Paris during World War II as an interpreter. Part of his job is sitting in on the interrogations of French Resistance fighters and translating what they say. In his free time he likes to wander the city, pretending to be french and blending in with the people. He meets and falls in love with a beautiful french girl named Chantal, who turns out to have ties to the Resistance.

The first half of this book moves slowly. It has a strangely disjointed style to it, which may have been because of the translation (it was originally written in German). A couple of times when I was reading it I felt like I'd skipped a paragraph, but I hadn't. I didn't particularly buy into the romance either. He barely knows this girl, but he's head over heels in love? Really? Not just infatuated, but risk-your-life-and-career-and-everything-you-have-for-her love? Part of the problem is that even while Michael is the narrator, he is strangely detached from the reader, and Chantal's thoughts are equally oblique.

In the second half the book really takes off as there are a couple of dramatic twists. Whilst I still didn't care about Michael, I was completely riveted by what was happening to him. It also develops a sense of place which is oddly missing in the first half of the book. The ending is also quite affecting. The author is a screenwriter and the second half of the book definitely has a cinematic feel to it.

It's an unusual book and I really have no idea how I'd classify the genre. Not a thriller, not a romance, not a spy story. I rate the first half two stars, four for the second, averaging out at three.
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