Haunting Paris: A Novel (Hardcover)
"This fine first novel explores the ways history abides in the streets and monuments of an old city, and in the human souls who love it and grieve for it and struggle to forgive it. This book is a small parable, pondering the nature of civilization itself."
--Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Gilead
A timeless story of love and loss takes a mysterious turn when a bereaved pianist discovers a letter among her late lover's possessions, launching her into a decades-old search for a child who vanished in the turbulence of wartime Paris.
In the summer of 1989, while all of Paris is poised to celebrate the bicentennial of the French Revolution, Sylvie mourns the loss of her lover, Julien, and is unable to find solace in the music that has always been her refuge. But when she accidentally dislodges an envelope concealed in Julien's desk, she finds an enigmatic note from a stranger and feels compelled to meet this woman who might hold the key to Julien's past. Julien's sister and one of her daughters perished in the Holocaust; but Julien held out hope that the other daughter managed to escape. Julien had devoted years to secretly tracking his niece, and now Sylvie picks up where he left off.
Sylvie sets out on her quest for knowledge, unaware that she is watched over by Julien's ghost, whose love for her is powerful enough to draw him back, though he is doomed to remain a silent observer in the afterlife. Sylvie's journey leads her deep into the secrets of Julien's past, shedding new light on the dark days of Nazi-held Paris and on the character of the man Sylvie loved.
Mamta Chaudhry's profoundly moving debut matches emotional intensity with lyrical storytelling to explore grief, family secrets, and the undeniable power of memory, while using vivid imagery and deep historical understanding to capture a city in breathtaking new ways.
About the Author
MAMTA CHAUDHRY's fiction, poetry, and feature articles have been published in the Miami Review, The Illustrated Weekly of India, The Telegraph, The Statesman, Writer's Digest, and The Rotarian, among others. She lives with her husband in Coral Gables, Florida, and they spend part of each year in India and France. Haunting Paris is her first novel.
“Elegantly wrought . . . [Chaudhry’s] ardor for Paris is evident in her historical filigrees [and] casts a mournful backward glance at epochal moments in the history of Paris.”
--New York Times Book Review
"This is a powerful and moving first novel. Reading it, I thought of Patrick Modiano and W. G. Sebald, master novelists similarly haunted by the horrors of WW II and the occupation of France. It’s audaciously, imaginatively constructed, with a heartbreaking, profoundly adult love story at its center."
--Russell Banks, author of Cloudsplitter and Continental Drift
"Haunting Paris explores dark questions--loss, grief, unforgiveable crimes--but the novel itself is full of light and life and beauty. All the characters, even Coco the dog, seem touched with grace as Mamta Chaudhry tells her absorbing story. A wonderful debut."
--Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of Mercury and The Flight of Gemma Hardy
"Haunting Paris is not only a love letter to the Paris of birdcage elevators and wrought iron peacocks but also a submersion into one of that city’s darkest periods, a visceral account of the quotidian labor of living with absence, and a reminder of the myriad ways in which we encounter voices from beyond the grave. Mamta Chaudhry’s novel is wonderfully moving."
--Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron and The World to Come
"Through pianist Sylvie and the flâneur ghost of Julien, Haunting Paris connects the living with our past. This extraordinary debut truly is haunting."
--Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Race for Paris
"Chaudhry deftly portrays how a place can hold so much beauty and tragedy all at the same time."
––Jewish Book Council
"Haunting Paris is an extraordinarily beautiful novel about one of the ugliest events ever to take place in French history . . . Chaudhry is a graceful, elegant writer."
"Like all fine fiction it is in its unfolding that Haunting Paris captivates. . . . The city seems almost a character in itself, and Chaudhry’s evocation of Paris is superb. Her ability to render telling details and convey the sights, sounds, and the very texture of life puts the reader at its center. . . . an absorbing must-read."
". . . poetic . . . Mamta Chaudhry grounds her romantic tale and evocative language with details that are sharply realistic, usually about everyday Parisian life. . . . Best of all are the scenes when Julien seems to time travel, visiting a group of washerwomen in 1889, and witnessing the murder of King Henri IV in 1610."
--New York Journal of Books
"The start to the story is more than enough to keep me riveted all the way to the end."
--KWBU, NPR affiliate in Waco, TX
"Haunting Paris is a graceful debut from Chaudhry . . . revealing a finely textured world where grief and love commingle. Julien’s spirit travels across time but keeps careful vigil over Sylvie, their separate paths nonetheless a powerful testament to the enduring strength of the bonds we form in life."
"[A] story of unresolved anguish and late love. Chaudhry's elegant debut . . . might well touch a popular nerve."
"Chaudhry’s debut is a heart-wrenching love letter to Paris"
"Mamta Chaudhry writes a love letter to Paris that is luminous and languid . . . a quiet story that is nonetheless intense on emotion."
--Historical Novel Society