Friday, September 30, 2016

After Paris by Renny deGroot - #review #giveaway

Liesbeth Zwart forges her identity with courage and aptitude while nursing in France during WW1. As Liesbeth Bos, she feels that identity melting away; the skills she needed as a nurse in Paris are of little use to her as a wife and mother in post-war Netherlands.

As she grapples to adjust to her new reality, she is confronted with a shocking discovery that sends her fleeing with her young daughter to start a new life in Canada. The New World forces Liesbeth to reassess her own life and beliefs, but will it be enough to save her fractured family?



The first few chapters of After Paris present a stark picture of nursing during WWI in Europe.  With so many wounded, such serious injuries and no end in sight, it seems like any nurse at that time truly had a calling.  How difficult must it have been to desensitize oneself to the hurt enough so that you could do the work of caring for the physical injuries, while remaining empathetic enough to care of the injuries that could not be seen.

Ms. deGroot's writing had me feeling like I was right there in the middle of the action.  On the one hand this was a little unsettling, but ultimately necessary to a proper immersion experience with the story.  That people could find the elements of life in the middle of so much death seems miraculous.  One of the characters, Max, said early in the book, "Yes, it's beyond belief to think about what man is capable of.  Imagine if all that energy went into improving the world instead of destroying it."  Exactly.

After the war, Liesbeth returns to her home country (the Netherlands), marries and does what is expected of a married woman by becoming a housewife and mother.  I make no value judgment as to whether staying in the home or working outside of the home is 'the right' choice for women.  Each has its own set of positives and negatives, as Liesbeth comes to know all too well.

I can appreciate the events that sent Liesbeth, along with her daughter, to a new life in Canada.  My mother's ancestors for generations have been born in one country and wound up living as adults in 'new' countries (on either side of the Atlantic).  You hope you are going towards something better, and sometimes that is true.  But there is a new set of 'rules' to learn and follow.

If you like well-written, enveloping stories (especially set in and around the time of WWI), before finishing your current book, After Paris should be on your TBR.



Renny deGroot is a first generation Canadian of Dutch parents. She is a published poet, song lyricist and novelist. Her debut novel, Family Business, was shortlisted in the Literary Fiction category, for the 2015 Emerging Writer Prize. She studied English Literature at Trent University.

Her strong Dutch roots continue to influence her while the love of her Canadian homeland with its beauty and freedom, flavors all that she does.

Renny lives in rural Ontario, Canada with her Great Pyrenees and Chocolate Lab.

For more information, please visit Renny deGroot’s website. You can also find her on Facebook.




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(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.)

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