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The Lost Song of Paris locations with Sarah Steele

  • Submitted: 9th April 2023

The Lost Song of Paris locations

Paris is beautiful at any time, but later in the year there is a sunny freshness to the air, and the many parks are brushed with the first russet tinges of autumn.

It was in October 2021 that the relaxing of Covid travel restrictions finally enabled me to visit Paris and retro-walk the routes explored in THE LOST SONG OF PARIS. I wrote the book during the winter lockdown earlier that year.

The Lost Song of Paris locations with Sarah Steele

BookTrail locations in The Lost Song of Paris

Visiting a city you know and love for a research trip is a very different experience to visiting as tourist. This is especially true when that research relates to the German occupation during WW2.

Hitler decreed that Paris should remain intact. Imagine how horrific it must have been in June 1940 for Parisians to see landmarks such as the Ritz Hotel and the beautiful Polish Embassy taken over. They became French headquarters for various factions of Hitler’s Third Reich.

Prunier Restaurant (c) Sarah Steele

Prunier Restaurant (c) Sarah Steele

BookTrail locations in The Lost Song of Paris

The Germans treated Paris as a playground, often mixing with what remained of Parisian high society. Soldiers were sent there for recuperative leave. German officers loved their fine dining.

I set two scenes inside famous restaurants that were frequented by the likes of Goering. Today, you still need a very healthy bank account to dine at Prunier or Maxim’s.

Maxim's Restaurant (c) Sarah Steele

Maxim’s Restaurant (c) Sarah Steele

My novel tells the story of a concert pianist in occupied Paris, and is very much enfolded within the landscape of the city. One of the settings I was most keen to visit was the Hôtel Lutetia, a grand dame of the Rive Gauche. This is where we first meet Sophie Clément on the eve of war.

Hôtel Lutetia (c) Sarah Steele

Hôtel Lutetia (c) Sarah Steele

After a spell as the HQ of the Abwehr, Hitler’s secret police, with terrible symmetry the hotel appears at the end of my book as a repatriation centre for those returning from concentration camps.

The duty manager at the Lutetia showed me around, explaining that crowds waited outside the hotel each day, hoping to find their loved ones. At the same time,  the Red Cross gave ex-internees food and medical treatment. There is a small plaque outside this hotel – the remains of this extraordinary period in the hotel’s history.

Rue Ferdinand Duval (c) Sarah Steele

Rue du Cherche Midi (c) Sarah Steele

BookTrail locations in The Lost Song of Paris

I am a very visual writer, and enjoyed choosing specific locations for the homes of my characters. Sophie lives closed to the Lutetia, and so I placed her in an apartment in the rue du Cherche-Midi. I even found myself imagining her grand piano being hoisted through the first-floor window!

Rue Ferdinand Duval (c) Sarah Steele

Rue Ferdinand Duval (c) Sarah Steele

BookTrail locations in The Lost Song of Paris

One particularly poignant setting was the Goldmann residence, a family of Jewish musicians. For them, I chose a street in the Marais, the old Jewish quarter and one of my favourite parts of Paris. The events I imagined in the rue du Ferdinand Duval will always seem painfully real, and standing there was incredibly moving.

Gestapo HQ at 84 avenue Foch

BookTrail locations in The Lost Song of Paris

Take the Métro to Étoile and you will find yourself at the Arc de Triomphe, close to some of the most expensive boulevards in Paris. Two of my characters are arrested and taken to Gestapo HQ at 84 avenue Foch, a short walk from this iconic landmark. Now just another elegant townhouse, number 84 has a very dark history. The attic you can see in this photograph housed cells where Resistance fighters and foreign agents were incarcerated between brutal and often deadly interrogations.

BookTrail locations in The Lost Song of Paris

The Germans also used an old military prison to house political prisoners, and although nothing remains of the Prison du Cherche-Midi, setting for one of the most dramatic scenes in the book, a monument has been erected to those who were imprisoned or died there.

BookTrail locations in The Lost Song of Paris

But of course research trips are not all work – and most authors would agree that an early-evening aperatif can only help the creative process.

BookTrail locations in The Lost Song of Paris

 

BookTrail Boarding Pass:  The Lost Song of Paris

Twitter:  @sarah_l_steele   Web: sarahsteeleauthor.co.uk

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