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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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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: #2,284,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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: 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 Verified Purchase
This book is a really fast read, partly because many of its plot twists are expected--you can see them coming pages ahead of actually reading them. The book is filled with close, exacting descriptions of torture; at first, these make for horrifying reading. After a while, however, they feel gratuitous and have virtually no impact, except to make this reader feel like the book has turned into one of those superhero films where some Hollywood megastar survives astoundingly awful beatings, shootings, falls, and... oh, wait. The writer is a screenwriter. That explains it!

The best thing that Mr. Wallner achieves here is his initial portrait of Corporal Roth. Defying expectations that a Third Reich soldier would be a monster, Corporal Roth is just a guy. He likes French culture and doesn't want to be sent to the front, and I found myself worrying about him as he went on his nighttime adventures. I wanted him to play it safe and just get by. He doesn't do so--he has more courage than that.

Unfortunately, the last third or so of the book is the part that reads like a "Diehard" movie, except that it's got a quasi-romance plot along with the violence. Maybe Mr. Wallner wrote the book quickly; if he'd put more thought into it, he might have been able to write a story that didn't have to rely on predictable plot twists and implausible events to wind itself up.
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