I really, really wanted to enjoy The Room on Rue Amélie by Kristin Harmel. WW2, especially France during WW2 is an era that I have studied enormously, and when a new book comes out on the subject, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction I jump on it. I love a good piece of historical fiction, especially when it’s well-written and most of the events and facts match up with what would have really happened, or at least try to.
There will be some spoilers in this review so stop here if you don’t want anything to be ruined for you!
I’m going to start with what I enjoyed. The Room on Rue Amélie reads well, I got sucked in pretty fast and liked the storyline in general. I thought the way it was written from several perspectives was a great way to make sure we got to see what other characters were doing while they were separated from each other during the war.
But. And this is a really huge But.
Historical fiction gets some passes when it glazes over certain events, or tweaks them a little. It’s OK to omit certain things that may have happened. And while I gather that the author did a ton of research and also based some of the story on real life events (Virginia d’Albert-Lake) there are things in this novel that don’t make complete sense, or just seem too easy. As Ruby’s husband is assassinated by the Nazis due to his involvement with the Résistance there is no way on earth she would have been questioned a few times in her apartment and then left alone. At the very least she would have been taken to the police station and interrogated and then heavily watched by the authorities, and I feel like this would have made the story more credible.
And then, again, as an American widow she would never have been left alone after 1941. There is no mention of anyone checking on her status at all. She would have been questioned and possibly interned or sent to Vichy. So unfortunately these inconsistencies just made the novel a little unbelievable for me.
The other bit that bothered me was that the writing is full of romance and descriptive clichés, and the romance part isn’t a subtle storyline woven into the rest, it literally just takes over, in a really heavy way. These are however personal preferences as I’m not really into romance novels.
If you love a romance with a backdrop of war, you will most likely enjoy The Room on Rue Amélie. It’s not a bad story, and it does read well, but I think I was assuming this would be more in the lines of The Nightingale or Fires in the Dark, but it wasn’t. I didn’t feel close to any of the characters at all, too predictable and flat for my liking, maybe only Charlotte was the one who I found interesting. It’s not a bad book at all, I think I was just expecting something different.
The Room on Rue Amélie will be released on March 27th 2018 by Gallery Books. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!