Sunday 11 November 2012

Crossing on the Paris by Dana Gynther

It's 1921 and the transatlantic liner Paris is sailing to New York from France and England.  Three passengers from three different classes and generations are onboard; Vera, Constance and Julie.  Vera Sinclair is an ex-pat American who has spent years in Paris and is now returning home after receiving the news that she hasn't got long to live.  Constance Stone is returning from an unsuccessful mission to bring her younger sister Faith home from Paris to help their mentally ill mother.  And Julie Vernet is working in steerage class on her first ocean crossing.  The three women are very different but all will be changed in some way by the voyage.

I enjoyed Crossing on the Paris a lot more than I expected to.  I thought it would be shallow and possibly a bit cheesy, but it wasn't at all.  The atmosphere of the 1920s and the glamour and squalor of ocean liners was captured well by Gynther and this made a great back-drop to the story.  The three women were vividly written and easily distinguishable from each other.  I liked the technique of splitting the book up in to chapters, with each one relating to a different day of the five-day crossing.

Of the three women, I found it easiest to relate to Julie.  Having lost all of her brothers in the First World War, she's desperate for a chance to get away from the grief and poverty of her home in France and jumps at the opportunity to work on the boat.  But she is assigned to serve in steerage class (3rd class) and the liner isn't as glamorous as she had hoped.  Suffering with low self-esteem, she's overjoyed when a handsome engineer takes an interest in her and is swept away in what she thinks is a romantic fairy tale only to learn a very hard lesson about life.  I really felt for Julie as I was reading her story and it's here that Gynther makes the plot more heavy going than I had anticipated it would be.  This book definitely isn't as sweet as the cover makes it look.

I also enjoyed Constance's story.  She's married to a man that she doesn't really love and gets a taste of freedom on board the Paris.  With no one to answer to but herself, she fools people into thinking she isn't married and is tempted to have an affair with another passenger.  Jealous of her sister's freedoms, Constance has to choose whether to live in the moment or remember all of her responsibilities   I think this is something we all face in life, not necessarily with adultery, but we all have moments where we have to choose between what we want to do and what is the right thing to do.  I didn't enjoy Vera's story as much as those of the other two women, but her voice was still engaging enough to make reading the book pleasant.

All in all, I enjoyed the time I spent with Crossing on the Paris. It's a lovely escapist read with more depth than I had anticipated.  Fans of historical fiction would enjoy this title.

Source: From Simon & Schuster, via NetGalley
Published: 13th November 2012
Score: 4 out of 5


  1. I'd enjoy this read myself. Specially from Julie's story

  2. Thanks for putting this book on my radar. I'm currently reading abook about Italian immigrants to America in the 1900s, Elizabeth Street, which is very good. I've read several books this year with immigration as a theme. Have a great day, Sam.

    1. I'll keep a look out for Elizabeth Street, I like a good story about immigration, mainly because I can't imagine having the guts to start all over somewhere else.

  3. Thanks for the review - it sounds like a good one.

  4. Sounds good...thanks for the review.

    Great post.

    Silver's Reviews

  5. I got this one on my tbr list. Sounds great! Great review..


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  8. I've seen this one around and wondered about it- whether or not there was enough story there to make it worthwhile. Sounds like there is! Nice review. I'll have to add this to my list too.

  9. I really think this sounds like something I would like!

  10. It's always delightful when you are pleasantly surprised by a book. This sounds like a great story.

  11. Great review. This just arrived in my mailbox yesterday. I'm looking forward to it.
    2 Kids and Tired Books

  12. Hi Sam--

    I was intrigued and delighted by your review-- so glad you found the book more substantial than you might have thought by the cover (did you find it a bit twee?)! I've added your link to my website, which I'm including here. We've just put up a radio interview, a video and some other bits and bobs which might interest a reader. Thanks again for your insightful review!