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Paris Echo

Paperback edition released 13/06/2019

by Sebastian Faulks

Modern and Contemporary Fiction Books of the Month Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel eBooks of the Month Literary Fiction

LoveReading Expert Review of Paris Echo

A moving tale not to be missed, from the pen of a beautiful story-teller. An unlikely pair are flung together by chance each on a quest for truth.

Classic stuff with Paris very much at its centre.  Although set in the present, the past echoes through it as various people brush up against history, politics and atrocities. 

Our main characters are a 19-year old, illegal, Moroccan immigrant, Tariq, and a lonely, middle-aged American academic, Hannah, bruised by a love affair in Paris ten years earlier.  Tariq works in a fried chicken shop with a couple of Algerians who discuss the brutality of the French in the war of independence.

This echoes the interviews Hannah is transcribing for her research about women under German occupation.  A quirk of fate allows Tariq to become Hannah’s lodger and then translator.  Although a comparatively short book, at under three hundred pages, there is a huge amount within it.  Faulks is without a doubt an impressive novelist.  This is a must-read.

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Paris Echo Synopsis

**Sunday Times Bestseller** A haunting portrait of Paris past and present from the bestselling author of Birdsong. 'Superb... Weaves winningly between the present and the Second World War, between Tangier and Paris' Observer American academic Hannah and runaway Moroccan teenager Tariq have little in common, yet both find themselves haunted by the ghosts of Paris. Hannah listens to the extraordinary witness of women living under the German Occupation and finds a city bursting with clues, connections and past love affairs, while in the migrant suburbs Tariq is searching for a mother he barely knew. Urgent and deeply moving, Paris Echo asks how much we really need to know in order to live a valuable life. 'An exquisite book. Deeply affecting' Daily Mail

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781784704100
Publication date: 13th June 2019
Author: Sebastian Faulks
Publisher: Vintage an imprint of Vintage Publishing
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 320 pages
Primary Genre Modern and Contemporary Fiction
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Paris Echo Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

Yet another #1 from the excellent Sebastian Faulks – deep, multi-layered story blending the historic past with modern day Paris.

Hannah and Tariq could not be more different. She is 31 year old PhD researcher in Paris to source material for a book about women resistance fighters during the war. He is a 19 year old runaway from Morocco who is in Paris to find out more about a mother he hardly knew.

What unites them both are ghosts from their past. She is still trying to move forward from a failed relationship 10 years previously in Paris and he is haunted by a mother who spent part of her life in Paris – a part he never knew. In addition, Paris is brought to life with reference to its history - WWII and the historic relationship between France and Algeria.

In confronting their past both gain a better understand of who they are today.
There are others too, notably, the ‘coming of age’ as Tariq leaves behind his innocent 19 year old self and embraces a Paris life full of indulgences – women, hashish to name but two.

Paris Echo is an intense and absorbing read from one of my favourite authors. How does he do it!

Phylippa Smithson

A brilliant, complex, engrossing novel about two strangers in Paris who find echoes from the past which enable them to discover more about history and themselves.

This is one of those rare novels that tells you something new about the past, is complex and thought-provoking and yet also is a good, enjoyable story.

The two main characters are Hannah, an American researching the experiences of women in Paris during the German Occupation, and Tariq, a young Moroccan wanting to find out more about his dead mother. Another main character is Paris itself, not the Paris of tourists but that of blocks of concrete flats in the suburbs and also the Paris of two historical periods - WW2 and the Algerian War.

Paris changes both Hannah and Tariq. She moves on from the heartbreak of a past love affair and he explores what identity means to him and what is really important in his life. These characters are well drawn and you care about what happens to them but it is the wider theme of how we make peace with our history both as individuals and societies that resonates throughout the novel. I was particularly moved by the testimonies of young women accused of fraternising with the Germans that form part of Hannah's research.

As you would expect from Sebastian Faulks, the writing has a great sense of time and place and the story is one that will stay in the mind. Highly recommended.

Ann Peet

American academic, Hannah and Moroccan student, Tariq are both in Paris hoping to deal with echoes of the past. But there are many ways to take their first steps into the future.

This is a story which places the reader alongside the two main characters, learning with them and rooting for them.

Hannah's research into the experiences of French women under the German occupation of World War II takes her into a complicated and chequered national history.

Tariq, escaping from what he sees as the restrictions of Moroccan student routines, finds himself embroiled in areas of Parisian life which a tourist never sees.
With each chapter heading the name of a Metro station, it is the underground system of connections, like roots reaching down into the past, which ties together the different parts of the plot.

Hannah and Tariq must each travel through echoes of the past - national and personal - before returning to the surface and into the future.

With subtle skill Sebastian Faulkes has written a novel which interweaves ideas about nationhood, personal identity and the ways the two connect.

Heather Shaw

Two very different people come together in Paris with differing purposes - a researcher researching women in Nazi occupied Paris and a Moroccan male seeking answers about his dead mother and adventure. Beautifully written.

After reading about "Coco" Chanel and what she did to save her business during occupied Paris, this came at a good time to read this.

I have been a fan of this author for some time, so when this dropped through my letter box I was excited. After reading the book I was not diasappointed, this was a great read.

This is about the past and occupied Paris during the second world war, and the present. This is about people from the past and present.

Tariq leaves is life in Algeria for Paris to find meaning, a dead mother and adventure whilst Hannah an America researcher listens to the accounts of women under occupied Paris during the time of 1940-1944 for a project.

Both Hannah and Tariq are two very different people with different pasts, relationships and problems who come together in an unusual circumstance with the story weaving from past to present. The author has researched the period of occupied France well and accurately accounts what took place during this period of time- as a woman, what would you have done to save your life? And no one knew just how this period of the war would end.

The main themes within this story Nazi regime as well as the French against the Algerians in the 1960s - Which I was not familiar with but added to this story.

I read this in one sitting only putting the book down at the end with a story that will linger for a long time and a Paris that I want to revisit again.

Jane Brown

Paris' shameful and dark history, insightful and current

This is the first novel by Sebastian Faulks I have ever read. After hearing only amazing things about his work I was full of expectations. I must admit I have learned a lot about Paris and its shameful history, treatment of immigrants and approach to others.

The historical background of 1940-43, then 1961 and finally more recent history and dealing with Jews, North Africans and others, is very important to this story and for me comes as a huge plus. The main characters, Hannah (American) and Tariq (Moroccan) did not make any lasting impressions on me, very sketchy and not really serving much purpose except to underline the Paris they are getting to know or researching. That's a shame if a novel leaves you detached from its main characters and main plot, and you are looking forward to reading more about the secondary, historical background. This book did not make me laugh, smile, cry or admire Faulks. It definitely made me want to know more about Paris and France's history. It was an eye-opener.

Agnieszka Higney

Always a joy – a new Sebastian Faulks’ novel

This is a story about memory and the past, on an individual level as well as a national one. Hannah is an American researcher, living in Paris. She knows, or wants to know, and to understand about everything. Tariq is an Algerian teenager who has run away from his home country. He knows little about life, and less about France.

Their stories become interconnected and Tariq begins to learn about the world around him and wants to know more. Hannah starts to see things more through Tariq’s eyes and wonders if a little less knowledge may be a good thing.

Hannah is researching the lives of some of the French women who were in Paris during the years of occupation in the Second World War. So we also get snapshots of their lives during the War and we see how the French nation handled the aftermath of this experience.

I enjoyed reading this so much, also learning lots along the way. There were so many half-sentences which thrust up ideas which could have run off to be books on their own. It’s a beautiful read, full of insights, wise and warm, without looking at anything through rose tinted glasses. I’m already looking forward to re-reading this!

Sarah Webb

Paris Echo cannot be read in a single sitting. Firstly, because a Métro map needs consulting in order to appreciate Tariq’s (meta)physical journey. And secondly, since a defibrillator’s required to jolt the reader back to life after reading heart-stopping testimony Hannah hears from WWII survivors.

What Maine is to Stephen King, France is to Sebastian Faulks: a popular setting for novels. Paris Echo is Faulks’s fourth to be set in the country after The Girl at the Lion d’Or, Birdsong and Charlotte Gray, which together comprise his loose French trilogy. Although set in the City of Lights, this darkly bleak book will more closely resemble the (relative) success of the former than the (bestselling) latter two. I’ll state why after outlining its premise.

It’s a story set in 2006 about two troubled souls meeting in a city troubled by war: Hannah, a thirty-something emotionally-scarred American historian, and Tariq, a nineteen-year-old French-speaking Moroccan eager for information about his late mother. Despite its sub-300-page length Paris Echo cannot be read in a single sitting. Firstly, because a Métro map needs consulting in order to appreciate Tariq’s (meta)physical journey. And secondly, since a defibrillator’s required to jolt the reader back to life after reading heart-stopping testimony Hannah hears from WWII survivors. Here the reader is forgiven for thinking they were thumbing Anne Sebba’s Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940s.

Although fictitious such factually-grounded, pulse-quickening excerpts serve to overshadow subtle parallels between Occupation and (De)Colonisation and, together with the author’s penchant for evoking sense of place, come at the expense of character development. Only those Hannahs without Tariqs to translate Alice Zeniter’s The Art of Losing – a tale of gritty realism about a French-Algerian family – should purchase Faulks’s magical realist novel.

Lee Ruddin

A fascinating novel that combines modern day characters in Paris with 'echos' of the city's past.

Sebastian Faulks has produced another fantastic novel that will leave you reflecting on the characters long after you have read the final page. Hannah and Tariq both travel to Paris for different reasons, but are both attracted there due to events in their past. Hannah suffered a broken heart while studying in Paris ten years previously, and Tariq is looking for a connection to his French mother. The novel also weaves in the personal stories of women who lived in the city during the time of German occupation. It was this historical element of this novel that I found most interesting and would have enjoyed more of that time frame within the story.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a Faulks fan or enjoys historical facts within their fiction reading.

Emma Barton

What a total privilege to read. A beautifully written, steady read, that felt real, and relevant.

What a total privilege to read.

I've read Birdsong which really did linger, and this has had a similar effect. The characters are wonderful, both so different, you're left pondering which one to favour.

Two strangers who's lives cross paths, engrossed in history, the past and how their lives change as a result.
I loved the crossover from past and present, and the historical element is purely fascinating.

The book switches back and forth between Tariq and Hannah. The two main characters, their lives, experiences and opinions, so you see Paris from two different perspectives.

The depth's Faulks has travelled through Paris is clearly evident in this novel. I needed to resort to using google maps for the first part.

A beautifully written, steady read, that felt real and relevant.

katie macaulay

I am not familiar with Faulks' work so this was my first foray into his writing....and I loved it.

Paris Echo is the evocative new novel from Sebastian Faulks. I am not familiar with Faulks' work so this was my first foray into his writing....and I loved it.

This novel tells the story of two very different people: Hannah, a PhD student from America who is visiting Paris to research French women under the German occupation of World War 2 (this is her second trip to Paris, the first leaving a bitter taste in the mouth after a failed romance with a Russian writer which she has never fully got over), and Tariq, a 19 year old runaway from Morocco who has come to Paris to try and learn about his dead mother's past. Circumstances conspire to bring Hannah and Tariq together and he becomes her lodger as they both search Paris for very different things.

The chapters alternate between the two characters and this is an interesting device as it allows us to see two very different sides of Paris; Hannah's more academic, safe world, and Tariq's slightly more dangerous journeys into some of the seedier parts of Paris. However, this in itself echo's what they are both looking for. For Hannah, the trip is purely business and for Tariq, he is looking for something but isn't quite sure what. Hannah and Tariq strike up an unlikely friendship and he even helps her translate some of her research as he speaks better French than she does.

The ghosts of the past are all around them and we are left wondering whether some of the encounters that happen are real, imagined, dreamed or a result of the weed that Tariq continually smokes. I have to admit to being surprised by some of the details about the German occupation as I was unaware of how the French people had reacted to being occupied and somehow had an idea that the resistance was more widespread than this book leads you to think.

Don't expect a thrill ride, and please don't wait for the novel to get going - it never really does. However, it is a wonderful slow burn of a story that kept me coming back to it time and again to find out what happened next.

Alison Bradbury

As you would expect from this author, it's a beautifully written, very thoughtful piece of literature-recommended.

Sebastian Faulks has written an interesting and thought-provoking story set in modern day Paris but harking back to the past. It is a brilliant evocation of the city, both the beautiful areas known to tourists and the gritty suburbs that we don't get to see as visitors.

The book centres on two characters, Tariq, a young Moroccan who comes to Paris to find out about his half-French mother's family, and Hannah, an American academic who is researching a book on the lives of Parisian women during the German occupation and who finds that the accepted view that everyone was opposed to the Germans is not always true.

The paths of these two characters cross and they become friends. The book moves from the present to the past, to show life in Paris during the occupation and also in the wake of the Algerian war, when yet again the accepted view of events is shockingly challenged. The characterisation is excellent, particularly Tariq and the way he grows and matures in the course of the book.

As you would expect from this author, it's a beautifully written, very thoughtful piece of literature-recommended.

Evelyn Love-Gajardo

The structure was very unusual.

The narrative was from two main characters, one female who is researching the part of French women during WW2 and the other an Algerian immigrant. I found it a bit rambling and much preferred the researchers story as it involved gathering together different women's stories of what happened to them during the war. The other narrator (Tariq) was a lot less interesting and his reason for being in Paris wasn’t very clear or believable. I couldn’t quite decide whether I liked it or not as the structure was very unusual but I did finish it so I must have liked it.

Stephanie Harding

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781784704087
Publication date: 13/06/2019
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781784704100
Publication date: 13/06/2019
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781786330215
Publication date: 06/09/2018
Format: Hardback

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About Sebastian Faulks

Sebastian Faulks was born in April 1953. Before becoming a full-time writer in 1991, he worked as a journalist. Sebastian Faulks's books include A Possible Life, Human Traces, On Green Dolphin Street, Engleby, Birdsong, A Week in December and Where My Heart Used to Beat.

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