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April in Paris Paperback – March 25, 2008
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
I had liked what I had read up to that point though.
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.