Told over the course of a single day in 1927, The Paris Hours follows four ordinary people with connections to luminaries such as Marcel Proust and Gertrude Stein. When the quartet's paths finally cross, each discovers if they will find what they are looking for.
... what a design! George expertly crosscuts between various plots, coaxing [historical characters] closer and closer as evening draws on. The tinder has been set and the fire is lit as the action converges on a raucous cabaret in Montmartre. 'It’s not just objects that warp and disappear in the flames’ embrace,' it’s the characters’ notions of what they’re capable of doing, of what sort of people they’ve become in this combustible present.
The Paris Hours is a lovely and transportive piece of fiction, one that strikes a balance between the notorious glamour and everyday quietude of 1920s Paris. There’s a richness to the setting that captures the mind’s eye, showing us the glitter and the grime with equal aplomb. Intricately plotted, the book finds ways to build its characters’ interconnectedness with descriptive delicacy. Each of these individual storylines unfolds on its own; none of them actively require the presence of the others to function as fully formed, but the devil is in the details—George incorporates tiny cross-narrative signifiers that unobtrusively serve as connective tissue to guide these characters toward one another, all building to a final heartbreaking collision. Oh, the characters. Each of these four main players is a fully and beautifully realized person, complicated and flawed and fascinating ... the kind of book that almost demands to be devoured; it’s hard to avoid being swept away by the journeys undertaken by each of these regular, yet remarkable people. Evocative and smartly-paced, driven by character and historicity, it’s a fantastic read.
An artist, a writer, a puppeteer, and an author's intimate—the stories of these characters move back and forth in a beautiful dance. And how they come together in the final movement is très belle! ... George has captured the ethos of 1920s Paris with a feel similar to Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See. This title is not to be missed.