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The Paris Winter
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on 9 March 2018
The slow pace at inception of this historical thriller was no problem for me. Imogen Robertson's evocative style when applied to a city I know and love, held me entranced from the start. She cleverly lets the characters develop themselves as the story progresses, saving her descriptive skills for the quartiers where things happen. Her research into Parisian life during the Belle Époque must have been enormous. Coincidentally, the key location in the plot happens to be right where I lived, on the corner of the rue de Seine and the Boulevard St Germain. Even Saint Sulpice right opposite, and where I attended mass, has its part to play. As the story progresses, Imogen surprises the reader just when things look predictable. Defining the make-up of the characters and their relative importance is challenging, and each changes as the writer half lets you into their points of view. Maud is central, but that isn't all. Fascinating technique and emotive writing leaves you at the end concluding that this book stands apart, however well read one thinks one is. I only wish Imogen Robertson can spare the time from her mainstream late 18th century story telling, to take us again inside Paris and its people's experiences as the the 20th century unfolds.
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on 29 July 2013
The Paris Winter is set in the French Capital in 1909/10 - the time of the city's devastating floods. A young Englishwoman, Maud, has come to Paris to study art. To supplment her meagre income, Maud takes on the post of lady-companion to Christian Morel's invalid sister Sylvie. But treachery and skullduggery soon follow, and then, as the floodwaters creep across the city, revenge.

The Paris Winter is a beautifully written novel, with crisp, flowing prose and a sedate pace. There's a wonderful atmosphere of Belle Epoch Paris and the artists' milieu. I really loved Maud as a character - I wanted to know all about her right from the start. Robertson gets the characters of Morel and Sylvie spot on too. There is a subtle feminist angle - making a career of art is one of the few (semi) respectable options available to a woman at this date if she does not care for marriage and children.

The plot is not as imaginative as it could have been, however. There are no real twists or surprises. Some of the other characters like Yvette and Tanya are less interesting and tend to get in the way of what story there is. There are some loose threads in the plot, too. Perhaps, though, this was deliberate as the book is leaning towards literary historical fiction. Worth a read? Absolutely. But not a page turner.
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on 8 November 2015
Quite simply the best historical novel I have read in decades of reading them - I have read thousands.
Complex people unfold themselves gradually. Delightfully, they grown and change through the course of the book. Such a great change from the usual cartoon, static portraits. These are intricate people, both historically true and imagined, seamlessly mixed.
I particularly loved the complete lack of simpering heroine. Here are a whole network of powerful women of different kinds, who yet each have their vulnerabilities, hopes and dreams. They range from the fabulously wealthy through rich to respectable to street survivor. None are appendages to men. The men are also well portrayed and interesting. Even the villains have depth, without detracting from the artist women and their patronesses. I loved the way the author wrote as an artist about artists, with frequent details that really work, and frequent use of art language without descending to jargon.
The structural whimsy of the descriptions of paintings seems like illustration only until ...

The mystery is not a whodunnit. We know that by halfway through. The mounting tension is about how a woman with a devastated life could rebuild it, and is revenge part of that? No easy answers but the inexorable flooding of a capital city becomes yet another agency of the issue.
Art, Monmartre, the underworld, the codes of the bourgeoises, are meticulously woven. I am a stickler for historical howlers and only found one, where a lady pays a fare for herself instead of her maid. Servants are here too as they should be - what a relief! and they are actually people.
Many a dark destiny twines these pages. Gothic romance is made satisfying without descending to schmaltz. The twists of phrase were skilful to the point of shocking and drenching this jaded palate of mine. I re-read many a paragraph for the sheer pleasure of the wording.
Oh how can I tell you how GOOD this book is! I cannot. Please read.
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on 9 July 2014
I loved this. Paris in the Belle Epoque years, but not as we are accustomed to seeing it, and this wasn't the story I was expecting. It was much darker, much more sinister, and the portrayal of one of my favourite cities, much more vivid than in most books. No lip service paid to Paris, none of the clichés, but the city, which is a character in its own right in this book, nonetheless draws you in, not with its glitter but with that feeling of wanting to be part of it, of wanting to be on the inside, of wanting to be one of the people who help make its heart beat, not just a tourist looking in.

What else did I like about the book? All three of the central characters, Tanya, Yvette and Maud. In particular Maud, who seems to be a shy English miss and turns out to be anything but. She's steely, she's angry, and she's a force that even street-wise Yvette is afraid of sometimes. I loved the way the relationship between the three of them grew, the intimacy that was not saccharine and which was not simple either. And I think that's the biggest thing I loved about this book, the complexity of all of the relationships. There wasn't a badly-drawn character, there wasn't one character I wanted to move on quickly from to find out what else was happening (I find that a lot in books), and the way the different relationships strained at each other, I just loved that.

I don't want to give away any of the twists and turns of the plot, so I'll just say it was fab, if you like twisty turny plots, and completely unex0ected. And for once, I found the Epilogue very satisfying indeed - not too much, not tying all the loose ends, but just enough.

I've never come across this author before, but I'm happy to discover she's written a good few other books, and I'll be seeking the next one out very soon. I'd highly recommend this very original book.
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VINE VOICEon 8 June 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson for me was a good read based on one girls love of painting as she wanted to be was an artist through the winter of 1909 in the beautiful city of Paris. Maud the main character of this very rich and vivid well written book had an unhappy childhood which left her totally emotionally damaged. Maud was happiest when she was painting and her love for art led her to a new life in Paris which fulfilled her in so many ways but it cost her everything she had plus a lot more she was unable to provide.
Maud is befriended by Tanya a rich Russian who also loves to paint and attends the same art class, Tanya notices Maud is starving herself so she can have money to paint so when she hears of a job as a companion for a sickly girl named Sylvie who lives with her brother Christian she is quick to introduce Maud to Christian and Sylvie not realising what danger she is leading the talented yet very innocent Maud into. For Maud it is the answer to her prayers as she is to live in with all meals provided and still able to attend her art classes which for her is most important of all. Sylvie draws Maud into her world like a moth to a flame this is one book which was so full of darkness due to the evil but yet the friendship of Tanya and the other characters the light shone through.
The book had everything a brilliant story needed namely secrets, lies, thieves and most of all cruelty which was dealt so easy by two people who could spin a lie to suit themselves like other people would draw a breath of air into their lungs. This truly is one book full of so many contrasts in life from the lives of the rich who could easily be mixed with those who lived in pure poverty. From the darkness of the evil which hid in the shadows but yet lived their lives among the innocent slowly pulling those who knew no evil into their lives of squalid greed. But why I loved this book so much was through the words Imogen Robertson used as a reader I was able to see the beauty of Paris but yet see the darkness of opium dens which were hidden behind the shops of the rich. Imogen Robertson is a gifted author who is able to paint pictures using her words which produced many pictures through her writing which enabled her readers not to miss anything of the Paris which Maud inhabited through the winter of 1909.
Now I will say the book is slow starting and it was half way through when I really started to enjoy it so much it was impossible for me to set the book down. I had to find out what would happen to Maud and her many friends who she met through her friendship of Tanya the very colourful yet tender hearted Russian who for me it was impossible to not care for. She knew she was blessed with her riches but through her rich heritage she was able to paint when and where she wanted but she had her own troubles which she could not get away from which showed the reader the total contrasts in so many lives through Paris at this time of history. I loved to read also of the other characters within the book as they were so different from each other not only with their personality but the way their lives were directed due to their parentage. Even those characters who briefly appeared in the storyline made the book extra special as the author had a wonderful way of adding depth with each character as not one of them was wasted they all had a part to play in this very tantalising book which kept my attention gripped throughout.
If you like a book with mystery, theft, murder and everything else in between this book had it all within its well written pages, include the very vivid characters which were so far removed from each other but yet their qualities bounced of each other especially Tanya and her maid with their wonderful Russian characteristics. Regarding Maud as we get to know her throughout the book I could see how Tanya affected her life plus the strong minded maid Sasha plus the very strong minded Yvette through their friendship give Maud to stand up against the evil which tried to kill her all in the name of greed.
The Paris Winter is the story of one single girl's life in Paris through the winter of 1909/1910 and how this very short period of time could change her life in so many ways. Through an introduction to two people could seem like an answer to her prayers but yet those prayers would soon become a nightmare in so many different ways.
I recommend The Paris Winter as a great read though slow to start it will soon have you gripped into the lives of Maud and her artist friends which will show you the evil of the opium dens of Paris hid among the high society of the dazzling lights and joys of the Belle Époque many crimes could be committed but yet hidden from those the crimes were committed against.
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on 17 July 2014
I have enjoyed the Westerman/Crowther series very much, and was curious at this new period and departure. I loved it. The first part of the book sets the scene and the historical reminders and revelations I found quite intriguing. The scene changes as we are introduced to rich society, now-famous artists, models, opium dens, apaches and more. Then the thrill starts as the mystery unfolds and the drama builds as Paris floods. Very readable, and I think that the introduction on changes of scene with crits of paintings is a particularly clever idea. There is a strong underlying theme of feminist independence slowly unfolding and then being forced to assert itself, rather well handled.
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on 21 April 2014
I know Imogen Robertson's work from the Crowther & Westerman series which I love and have read all of the first four books in the series three times, there's a fifth one out next month, I can't wait. I approached A Paris Winter with a little apprehension as it seemed about as far away from Crowther & Westerman as it's possible to get, I needn't have worried, it's every bit as good. The key, I think, is Ms Robertson's ability to create characters that you can believe in, characters that come to life in your own mind. That's her strength I believe.
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on 11 February 2014
I loved this book - gripping, fast-paced, always emotionally believable yet full of exotic foreignness too. I hugely enjoyed the women's art school, the Gertrude Stein moment, the Russian tinge, the glimpse of opium dens and cafés, the American countess and her Pimkertons and quiet, well-bred Maud, with her hunger and her darkness. And the descriptions of the river rising are pleasurably terrifying too. Mosh of all I liked the way the narrative is framed by the countess's picture collection. In proper French - a tour de force!
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on 2 January 2014
I've read Imogen Robertson's other books and enjoyed them (as a series). This has different characters but is a reasonably similar read but even better plot development and characterisation. It was gripping, the Paris background was fascinating, I loved it and couldn't put it down.
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on 23 July 2017
Brilliant book, entertaining And well written
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