Book: April In Paris
Author: Michael Wallner
The year is 1943. Paris is occupied by German troops. Roth is a German posted in Paris, in a relatively cushy Army job. One fine day, he is struck by the urge to defy rules by going out in civilian clothing, to discover what life is like for a common Parisian. He discovers a ramshackle building near the hotel he stays at, ideal for shedding his Army uniform, donning his checkered suit, and transforming from a German corporal to the common Monsieur Antoine. This soon becomes a regular affair for Roth, and he begins to enjoy his interactions with Parisians, unencumbered by his German uniform. Life, as he knows it, changes when he falls in love with a Parisian bookseller’s daughter, Chantal. April In Paris is the story of Roth’s adventures as a civilian and what comes out of it.
I bought the book because I was charmed by the storyline, and am happy to say that it did live up to my expectations. It was a delightful read. April In Paris is a welcome change from the books about harsh times during World War II that I have read so far – it was good to peek behind the scenes for once, and discover what runs in the mind of a soldier during a war. Roth is a young man with a heart, more than he is a soldier, and that is what makes him endearing.
This is more a love story than a story about the war. It does have its moments of gore, but it is majorly about Roth’s love for Chantal.It looks more like infatuation than true love, in fact, but the story is sweet, nonetheless.
I learnt that this is Michael Wallner’s debut novel, originally written in German and translated into English by John Cullen. The translation has been beautifully done, and the flow of the story has been maintained. I quite liked the style of the author – crisp sentences which convey a lot, and yet, leave a lot to the imagination.
I also liked the fact that the story is realistic, and has not been turned into a fairytale-ish romance.
The only grouse that I had with the book is that the characters have been depicted rather sketchily, leaving much about their nature to the reader’s imagination. That doesn’t take away from the reading experience, but a bit of detail would have made the book even more wonderful.
April In Paris is not a literary masterpiece that will leave you with tremendous take-aways, or a book that will stay with you for a long period after you finish reading it. It is, however, a sweet love story set in the backdrop of the Second World War. It is a light read, and a quick one, too. Recommended? Very much.