#FrenchbookFriday – Last Christmas in Paris
Christmas visit to Paris with Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb…
It’s always gorgeous to go to Paris, but there’s something extra magical about Christmas….Hazel and Heather take you to the very special Paris of their new book…
We were first introduced through our mutual agent in 2013, and went on to collaborate on WWI anthology, Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. In writing that book, we realised we not only shared a love of history and writing, but also shared a sense of humour, family life, and a love of good food and wine (the important things!) We also felt there was more to write about WWI, and a frantic brainstorming session led to the idea of writing a book together; a love story set over the four years of WWI. LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS was on its way.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, it was famously declared that it would be over by Christmas. It was this fact which led to the idea of a group of friends making plans for Christmas 1914. Plans which become horribly interrupted. Four Christmases would come and go before the war was over and the soldiers returned home. Letters were such a critical part of the war as they were the only way loved ones could keep in touch, so it felt right that this book would be written in the epistolary form – a series of letters and telegrams exchanged between childhood friends, Tom and Evie, and their circle of immediate friends and family..
Paris was also a must, and made sense for a number of reasons. The history of the Great War dictated that our characters would spend time there, but there was something more. Heather studied French language and culture in school and spent a decade teaching high school French, so writing about her favorite country came naturally. Hazel has also spent time in Paris, travelling and working, and loves the city. Who doesn’t?
They say Paris is always a good idea, and we completely agree. For writers there is something undeniably inspiring about the literary heritage of the city – the cafes of Montparnasse where the ‘Lost Generation’ of artists gathered, and where Hemingway and F.Scott Fitzgerald once sat with their pen and notebook. A walk through the Jardin du Luxembourg or a cocktail at The Ritz Bar Hemingway is sure to inspire the most absent of muses! And of course no writer can leave Paris without visiting the iconic Shakespeare and Company bookshop on the Left Bank.
Paris is known for its food, art, culture and revolutionary spirit, but there is an added weightiness that comes from centuries of troubled history, including the two world wars. During the “War to End All Wars”, six in ten Frenchmen died or were irreparably maimed. A shocking fact, and one that perhaps explains why the French are famous for their existential philosophies, their black clothing, and the way they believe in seizing the moment to enjoy the simple pleasures.
But despite its dark history, who can possibly deny the unapologetic romance of the City of Lights? What better location to inspire a love story, the scenes in Paris in 1968 bookending each year of war as told through Tom and Evie’s letters.
In Last Christmas in Paris, we hope to have captured the sense of hope and love that endured during the darkest days of war, and we hope to transport the reader not only to the past, but also to the streets of Paris at Christmastime, as Thomas reflects on the events and people who have touched his life the most.
With thanks to Hazel and Heather for taking us to Paris on quite a magical journey!