Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Review by Coll! The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton. 3.5 Coffee Cups!!

The Race for Paris
by Meg Waite Clayton
Genre: Historical Fiction

Normandy, 1944. To cover the fighting in France, Jane, a reporter for the Nashville Banner, and Liv, an Associated Press photographer, have already had to endure enormous danger and frustrating obstacles—including strict military regulations limiting what women correspondents can. Even so, Liv wants more.

Encouraged by her husband, the editor of a New York newspaper, she’s determined to be the first photographer to reach Paris with the Allies, and capture its freedom from the Nazis.

However, her Commanding Officer has other ideas about the role of women in the press corps. To fulfill her ambitions, Liv must go AWOL. She persuades Jane to join her, and the two women find a guardian angel in Fletcher, a British military photographer who reluctantly agrees to escort them. As they race for Paris across the perilous French countryside, Liv, Jane, and Fletcher forge an indelible emotional bond that will transform them and reverberate long after the war is over.

Based on daring, real-life female reporters on the front lines of history like Margaret Bourke-White, Lee Miller, and Martha Gellhorn—and with cameos by other famous faces of the time—The Race for Paris is an absorbing, atmospheric saga full of drama, adventure, and passion. Combining riveting storytelling with expert literary craftsmanship and thorough research, Meg Waite Clayton crafts a compelling, resonant read.

Reviewed by Coll :)

My Rating: 3.5 Coffee Cups!!

I was so torn on the rating for this book. I did enjoy it but between the first half and the second half it seemed as if I were reading two different books; the first I wanted to give three cups and the second four cups. I was incredibly excited to read the book for several reasons. When I was younger it was my dream to become a war correspondent and to this day I regret not following that dream. I thought it would be so hard to be respected in that field as a woman so I was immediately pulled towards this book. Also, I am a sucker for war books and for books about women who are all about kicking the rules to the curb and showing they can do anything that men can do.

The story is based on real life events portrayed by fictional characters. The narrator is a journalist named Jane and the story follows her experiences with Liv, a female photographer, and a male photographer named Fletcher. The women, grown tired of all the rejection they receive to their requests to go to the front, decide to go AWOL and they meet up with Fletcher (a friend of Liv’s husband) who aids them on their quest to become the first to photograph Paris at the moment cease-fire is declared. The issue I ran into early in the book is how slow it was progressing. It bordered on slightly boring sometimes and seemed to drag on quite a bit. A lot of time was spent on the characters earlier lives, a love triangle, and jealousy that I feel could have been portrayed in a more intriguing way. Instead a lot of it fell flat. The book definitely picks up halfway through when they reach Paris and the second half of the book I found too exciting to put down. I only wish the entire book had been like that.

The main characters were interesting but not well-developed, in my opinion. It was hard to feel any emotional attachment or bond with them and I found myself caring more about the history behind the book than the main characters in it. On a positive note, I admire the amount of research that Meg Waite Clayton put into writing this book. Her portrayal of war, soldiers, and civilians was absolutely brilliant and she was able to make you feel something for what those people were going through at that time. Her account of the moment in Paris where the cease-fire was declared was so brilliant and powerful that it gave me chills. 

“Tears streamed down the hollow, stubbled cheeks of old men, the old and the sick brought out from hospitals to greet freedom in the streets. Young women pulled their children tightly to their sinewy legs, watching for their children’s fathers, hoping they might appear in a passing truck and wondering if they would recognize them.”

Overall I think the second half of the book made it worth struggling through the first half. I never knew of what women actually went through during World War II as war correspondents and what they had to do to be allowed the same chances as men. A male photographer or journalist would be given permission immediately to go to the front to cover the war while a female photographer or journalist (in her fitted Saks Fifth Avenue uniform that she was required to wear) needed to go AWOL to get that same opportunity. Even then there was no guarantee their work would be published, because of their AWOL status, unless they allowed a man to take credit or it was published uncredited. The history this books teaches and the glimpse it gives into war from a woman’s viewpoint is fascinating and ultimately, The Race for Paris is worth the read.

“It is quite a job being a woman, isn’t it; you cannot do your work and simply get on with it because that is selfish, you have to be two things at once.” - Journalist Martha Gellhorn in an April 28, 1944, letter to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

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