Book review: Sorrow and grief key elements throughout book

The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

Historical Fiction

Published: March 27, 2018. Gallery Books.

In 1939, American girl Ruby Benoit falls in love with Frenchman, Marcel, and moves to Paris. She is excited to be in the city of lights, and begin a new life with her husband — however, war is looming and as the months pass, she and Marcel find themselves in the middle of the Nazi invasion. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Marcel starts leaving Ruby on her own for days at a time until tragedy occurs.

Her next-door neighbors are a Jewish family who did not leave Paris when they had the chance and Ruby becomes very close with their daughter, Charlotte. When her parents are arrested and sent off to one of the notorious camps in Poland, Ruby takes Charlotte in. With all the atrocities happening around her, Ruby knows she has to do something to help fight against the Nazi’s — even if that means joining the resistance and putting her and Charlotte’s life on the line. Things only become more complicated and dangerous for the girls when they hide a shot down RAF pilot, Thomas, whom Ruby becomes quite close with.

The Room on Rue Amelie is an endearing story of the Second World War, bravery, sacrifice and fighting for what you believe is the right thing to do. The story is narrated through all three perspectives which gives the story depth and insight. What was crazy for me was learning that Ruby’s character was based on a real woman named Virginia d’Albert-Lake. Her story was so captivating, inspiring and so much of the events that unfolded in Harmel’s book were based on real events. It definitely makes the reader appreciate the story much more — that, and Kristin Harmel’s writing which is filled with vivid beauty. There was much sorrow and grief throughout the story but it was presented in such a hopeful manner —this hope being what these characters focused on to survive. Harmel also was able to incorporate felt the intensity of wartime loss and devastation, yet the story didn’t feel overwhelmed with such sadness and heartbreak.

Kirsten Lowe studies at Athabasca University.

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