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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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I Owe You One
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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

ARC Review: Paris, A.M. by Liza Wieland

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
June 1937. Elizabeth Bishop, still only a young woman and not yet one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century, arrives in France with her college roommates. They are in search of an escape, and inspiration, far from the protective world of Vassar College where they were expected to find an impressive husband, a quiet life, and act accordingly. But the world is changing, and as they explore the City of Light, the larger threats of fascism and occupation are looming. There, they meet a community of upper-crust expatriates who not only bring them along on a life-changing adventure, but also into an underground world of rebellion that will quietly alter the course of Elizabeth’s life forever.

Paris, 7 A.M. imagines 1937—the only year Elizabeth, a meticulous keeper of journals, didn’t fully chronicle—in vivid detail and brings us from Paris to Normandy where Elizabeth becomes involved with a group rescuing Jewish “orphans” and delivering them to convents where they will be baptized as Catholics and saved from the impending horror their parents will face.

Poignant and captivating, Liza Wieland’s Paris, 7 A.M. is a beautifully rendered take on the formative years of one of America’s most celebrated—and mythologized—female poets.


Review:
I love historical fiction novels, particularly about the early part of the twentieth-century.  Throw in a Paris setting and I will eagerly read them.  The central story in Paris, 7A.M., examines the dangers of being a lesbian during the 1930's, both in the United States and in Europe.  I found the book to be hauntingly beautiful in its writing style.  The only criticism I would have about this book is that the author assumes we all know who poet Elizabeth Bishop was, and how influential she would become.  After a quick Google search, I was clued in and could truly appreciate this book.

What I Liked:
Narrative Style:
This book has a narrative style that is dream-like.  Scenes volley between memories and current action.  Timelines are seemingly optional.  While this is confusing, at first, it becomes exhilarating. 

Also, the descriptive nature of the writing is almost like Elizabeth Bishop's poetry (I actually did have some of her poems in my home in an anthology of 20th century poetry).  Details are used to create impressions of mood and place.  It was charming.

Story:
Although the synopsis from Goodreads makes this novel seem like it is all about Elizabeth Bishop's possible involvement with saving Jewish children just prior to the start of WWII, that is really only a small portion of the story.  The book is actually about how young women who are gay find out how to live in a world that will crush them for being who they are.  It's worth noting that this book debuts during Pride month.  It is a stark reminder of how dangerous it is to who you are in a world that wants you to fit into an established mold.

Despite how careful Elizabeth is, she finds other lesbians and has some moments where she can let her guard down.  Whether by accident or design, she gravitates toward women who are also gay.  The tragedy is that in order to stay safe many of these women have to find husbands and pretend to be straight.  Elizabeth, having an inheritance, is able to lead an independent life.  You can understand her sorrow as she witnesses her friends efforts to blend in.

What I Was Mixed About:
Background:
My only very small criticism of this book is that I wish the author would have provided a small primer on who Elizabeth Bishop was.  I am embarrassed to say that I wasn't familiar with her contributions to poetry and didn't know her life's story.  This becomes an issue in the  last portion of the book.  There are several references to people that I didn't know about.  After some researching, I realized that one of these people was a woman she was with for fifteen years!  But there is no explanation as to how they fit into Elizabeth's life.  

I will say that reading this book has inspired me to learn more about Elizabeth Bishop and her fascinating life.  

Rating: 




Release Date:  June 11th, 2019

Author:  Liza Wieland

Publisher:  Simon Shuster

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Page Length:  352 pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A beautifully written book about a poet during her formative years.  I would do a quick Google search prior to reading it to truly get all the references to people and important moments in Elizabeth Bishop's life.
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