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The Paris Daughter

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About The Book

Instant New York Times bestseller!

“A gorgeous, gut-wrenching” (Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author) historical novel about two mothers facing unthinkable choices as the Nazis invade France—from the New York Times bestselling author Kristin Harmel.

Paris, 1939: Young mothers Elise and Juliette become fast friends the day they meet in the beautiful Bois de Boulogne. Though there is a shadow of war creeping across Europe, neither woman suspects that their lives are about to irrevocably change.

When Elise becomes a target of the German occupation, she entrusts Juliette with the most precious thing in her life—her young daughter, playmate to Juliette’s own little girl. But nowhere is safe in war, not even a quiet little bookshop like Juliette’s Librairie des Rêves, and, when a bomb falls on their neighborhood, Juliette’s world is destroyed along with it.

When the war finally ends, Elise returns to reunite with her daughter, only to find her friend’s bookstore reduced to rubble—and Juliette nowhere to be found. What happened to her daughter in those last, terrible moments? Juliette has seemingly vanished without a trace, taking all the answers with her. Elise’s desperate search leads her to New York—and to Juliette—one final, fateful time.

A sweeping celebration of resilience, motherhood, and love, The Paris Daughter is “historical fiction at its best” (Sadeqa Johnson, New York Times bestselling author).

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for THE PARIS DAUGHTER includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Paris, 1939: Young mothers Elise and Juliette become fast friends the day they meet in the beautiful Bois de Boulogne. Though the shadow of war creeps across Europe, neither woman suspects that their lives are about to change irrevocably.

When Elise becomes a target of the German occupation, she entrusts Juliette with the most precious thing in her life—her young daughter, Mathilde, playmate to Juliette’s own little girl. But nowhere is safe in war, not even a quiet little bookshop like Juliette’s Librairie des Rêves, and when a bomb falls on their neighborhood, Juliette’s world is destroyed along with it.

More than a year later, with the war finally ending, Elise returns to reunite with her daughter, only to find her friend’s bookstore reduced to rubble—and Juliette nowhere to be found. What happened to Mathilde in those last, terrible moments? Juliette has seemingly vanished without a trace, taking all the answers with her. Elise’s desperate search leads her to New York—and to Juliette—one final, fateful time.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Both Juliette and Elise are transplants who followed love and passion to end up in Paris. How has their love of the city and of their spouses changed over the years? What are the things, big and small, that have allowed them to make a home there?

2. A woman’s place in the home and at work plays a significant role in both Elise’s and Juliette’s relationships with their husbands. While Juliette and Paul have a partnership running their bookstore, Elise feels stifled by her husband and his career. In what ways does Elise struggle against the boundaries society has placed on her?

3. Both Elise and Juliette are pregnant at the same time. While Elise hopes “the baby would change everything” (page 5) and notes that the pregnancy wasn’t intended, Juliette is both thrilled and terrified to be pregnant again, after the sudden loss of her daughter. How does each woman cope with her fear? In what ways does it bring them closer? In what ways does it set them up to drift apart?

4. After they initially meet, as things in Paris start to move closer to war, Elise and Juliette cling to each other. Elise even says, “So we will be each other’s family” (page 61), while Juliette responds, “I’ve always wanted a sister” (page 62). How is a deep friendship like theirs built? In what ways can a friendship fracture? How do extraordinary circumstances play into keeping a friendship or breaking one apart?

5. Being a good mother is something that Elise, Juliette, and Ruth all struggle with throughout the book. Juliette, in particular, is horrified when Ruth and Elise send their children away in hopes of saving them. Ruth tells a disbelieving Juliette, “The hope is that the children live. That they will survive and tell the world who they really are one day. In that, they will honor their families” (page 58). How do these different ideas of “good” motherhood affect each of the women? What other extraordinary acts of love do these women demonstrate? In what ways do you agree or disagree with their actions?

6. Grief plays a huge role throughout each of the mothers’ journeys. Elise, galvanized by her grief, begins to help with the rescue and reunification efforts in Paris. Juliette, embittered by her grief, finds herself leaving Paris for New York, and clings to her memories. Have you ever experienced a time when grief led to a fundamental shift in your world? How do different people process loss? How do we, as humans, find ways to cope?

7. Bernard tells Elise, “The world breaks all the time . . . and always, always, it is put back together again” (page 142). In what ways, big and small, do Juliette and Elise attempt to put things back together again, both during and after the war?

8. Hope takes many forms in this novel. Elise hopes she can find news of Juliette, while Suzanne and Georges Levy hope they will be reunited with their mother. Juliette hopes she can put the past behind her and reinvent herself on a new continent. In what ways do people hold on to hope even in the face of impossible odds? In what ways are the characters’ hopes rewarded or dashed in the novel? How do their hopes change over the course of the story?

9. Ruth eventually decides it is time for her and her children to leave Paris, saying to Elise, “This country no longer feels like a home for us. How can I ever forget that it turned its back on me, and on my children, in the first place? I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and I simply cannot stay, cannot let my children become adults here. What if France turns on us again? How can we ever feel safe?” (page 208). As much as Paris feels like home to them at the beginning of the novel, even Elise’s and Juliette’s relationships to the city change in the wake of the war. How do grief and trauma shape our view of home, and of safety? How do each of the mothers try to create a sense of home and safety for themselves and their children?

10. When they arrive in New York, Juliette sets about building an exact replica of La Librairie des Rêves, just as she remembers it from Paris. Upon its completion, she feels at home, but Lucie is deeply uncomfortable, calling it “the scary place,” even though Juliette promises that “we will have only happiness here” (page 219). How do their different reactions to loss and their grief over the deaths of their family cause them to be at odds with one another? In what ways do adults and children remember events differently? In what ways do we block or revise our memories to help us cope?

11. Upon their reunion, Elise is stunned by Juliette’s anger when Juliette states, “But decisions have consequences. And your decision took everything from me” (page 304). In what ways do small decisions throughout the book lead to much larger consequences? Is Juliette justified in her anger? Or, in times of war, are certain actions necessary?

12. Lucie paints a scene of Paris to show her mother she remembers, too. Olivier LeClair paints images of protest, and Elise carves endless depictions of her daughter’s face. How does art help convey emotion? How does its creation help the characters in the novel process their situations?

13. Questions of fate plague each of the characters throughout the book. Juliette feels “fury at the universe for continuing to push them [Juliette and Elise] together” (page 346), while first Elise, and then Lucie, repeats, “Under these stars, fate has brought you home” (page 359). Each major event is bookended by a plane first: the bombing of Boulogne-Billancourt, and then the midair collision of United Flight 826 and TWA Flight 266. Are there other aspects of the book that parallel one another? How are each of the characters in control of their destinies? In what ways do their actions change the destiny of others? And how, throughout it all, does a mother’s love play into their decisions?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. France’s experiences during World War II have been depicted many times in movies and in novels. After reading The Paris Daughter, try screening a movie, such as Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987), about a French priest who attempted to hide Jewish students at a school; Suite Francaise (2015), about the French resistance to the Nazi occupation, based on a manuscript that was hidden by a Jewish author who perished during the war; or Sarah’s Key (2010), about the deportation of the French Jews from Paris. Or you could pick up a copy of Kristin Harmel’s The Book of Lost Names, set in Aurignon, which delves further into the network Elise works for during her time there.

2. Art takes many forms in this novel. Grab some colored pencils, watercolors, or paints and try your hand at depicting a scene from your own life that you remember as having made you happy, such as the stars over the Bois de Boulogne do for Elise and Lucie/Mathilde. You could even attempt sculpting clay, or learning how to carve a block of wood.

3. La Librairie des Rêves is described as a wonderful jumble of a bookstore, with shelves crammed full of all sorts of literary treats. Invite your book club to go on a tour of one of your favorite local bookshops, and get lost among the shelves!

About The Author

Scot Lerner

Kristin Harmel is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels including The Forest of Vanishing StarsThe Book of Lost NamesThe Room on Rue Amélie, and The Sweetness of Forgetting. She is published in more than thirty languages and is the cofounder and cohost of the popular web series, Friends & Fiction. She lives in Orlando, Florida.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (May 14, 2024)
  • Length: 416 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982191719

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Raves and Reviews

"The Paris Daughter tore up my heart and put it back together again."

New York Times bestselling author Martha Hall Kelly

"A gorgeous, gut-wrenching read!"

New York Times bestselling author Kate Quinn

"The Paris Daughter is a heartrending, uplifting novel. It is a poignant portrait of how we assign guilt even in the most blameless of circumstances, and a powerful reminder of the importance of moving on from the past before we become trapped there."

– Janet Skeslien Charles,  New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library

“Kristin Harmel is one of my must-read authors, and I loved THE PARIS DAUGHTER....Harmel exemplifies the best in historical fiction; a story that brings history to vivid life, and one that enlightens as well as moves the reader.”

New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline

"The Paris Daughter stole - and broke - my historical-loving heart. Beautifully written and emotionally charged.... (it) is sure to delight (Harmel's) many devoted fans, and captivate many more. Absolutely wonderful!"

– Hazel Gaynor, NYT bestselling author of The Last Lifeboat

"A powerful exploration of the depths of a mother's love and the impossible choices that must be made during times of war....Part mystery, part family saga, part homage to the artist's soul, this book had me in tears and kept me riveted until the final page. It was unputdownable."

New York Times bestselling author Jill Santopolo

"Kristin Harmel's superpower is the emotional punch she packs into her vast repertoire of beautifully crafted historical fiction....Her exquisite and gut-wrenching novel reveals that even in the darkest times, there are rays of light...that even when you are lost, under the stars fate will guide you home."

New York Times bestselling author Lisa Barr

"Powerful, deeply emotional, and sure to be on everyone’s “must read” list."

New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips

"The Paris Daughter is an all consuming tale of war, love and family, and at its core is a heart touching look at a mother's love and the sacrifices we make for our children....Historical fiction at its best!"

– Sadeqa Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of The House of Eve

“Brilliantly crafted and heart-shatteringly beautiful, THE PARIS DAUGHTER is one of the best historical novels I have ever read....This is a timeless book of survival, strength, courage, a forever lasting song calling for peace.”

– Nguyen Phan Que Mai, internationally best-selling author of The Mountains Sing and Dust Child

"The Paris Daughter tore up my heart and put it back together again."

New York Times bestselling author Martha Hall Kelly

"A gorgeous, gut-wrenching read!"

New York Times bestselling author Kate Quinn

"The Paris Daughter is a heartrending, uplifting novel. It is a poignant portrait of how we assign guilt even in the most blameless of circumstances, and a powerful reminder of the importance of moving on from the past before we become trapped there."

– Janet Skeslien Charles,  New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library

“Kristin Harmel is one of my must-read authors, and I loved THE PARIS DAUGHTER....Harmel exemplifies the best in historical fiction; a story that brings history to vivid life, and one that enlightens as well as moves the reader.”

New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline

"The Paris Daughter stole - and broke - my historical-loving heart. Beautifully written and emotionally charged.... (it) is sure to delight (Harmel's) many devoted fans, and captivate many more. Absolutely wonderful!"

– Hazel Gaynor, NYT bestselling author of The Last Lifeboat

"A powerful exploration of the depths of a mother's love and the impossible choices that must be made during times of war....Part mystery, part family saga, part homage to the artist's soul, this book had me in tears and kept me riveted until the final page. It was unputdownable."

New York Times bestselling author Jill Santopolo

"Kristin Harmel's superpower is the emotional punch she packs into her vast repertoire of beautifully crafted historical fiction....Her exquisite and gut-wrenching novel reveals that even in the darkest times, there are rays of light...that even when you are lost, under the stars fate will guide you home."

New York Times bestselling author Lisa Barr

"Powerful, deeply emotional, and sure to be on everyone’s “must read” list."

New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips

"The Paris Daughter is an all consuming tale of war, love and family, and at its core is a heart touching look at a mother's love and the sacrifices we make for our children....Historical fiction at its best!"

– Sadeqa Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of The House of Eve

“Brilliantly crafted and heart-shatteringly beautiful, THE PARIS DAUGHTER is one of the best historical novels I have ever read....This is a timeless book of survival, strength, courage, a forever lasting song calling for peace.”

– Nguyen Phan Que Mai, internationally best-selling author of The Mountains Sing and Dust Child

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