Crossing on The Paris
by Dana Gynther
Published by Gallery Books
Genre: literature; women
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
4 / 5 cupcakes
Three women - one young and working at her first job, one newly thirty and married with daughters, and one older, who is suffering from breast cancer and leaving France to head back home to the US. These three are the foundation for the book and tell us their stories.
Julie Vernet not only is on a ship for the first time, but she's also working and leading home. She is determined to both escape her small French town and help support her parents, who lost Julie's three brothers in WWI. She is a good daughter, even if she is thrilled to leave her home behind. Julie seeks an adventure; she unwittingly finds it in the form of a fellow worker, a Russian who pursues her most ardently.
On her first day, she meets Constance and Vera. The former is a young wife and mother who headed to France to convince her wayward sister to come home to help their parents through some health problems; the latter an aging socialite returning home to die. On board, Constance meets an attractive doctor whose attention she enjoys. The doctor also treats Vera, whose illness is a bit more advanced than we hoped. Julie attends to both women at various parts of the book, and their stories occasionally intersect.
This is a lovely book, written with eloquence and charm. We get to know every character quite well, although some are fairly stock and predictable. We want For instance, the doctor is presented as a good man, yet we sense that he is possibly disingenuous in his pursuit of Constance. The same goes for Julie's Russian paramour. Vera, too, searches for love, although hers does not come in an expected form.
The stories slowly unfold, taking their time as the ship crosses from France to New York. As it gets closer to its destination, the three women adjust themselves to their fates, whether proactively or reluctantly. What will come of Julie, the small town girl now in a big east coast city? Or Constance and her marriage and children? And of course Vera. Will she find the peace and contentment she needs in order to die?
It is easy to get into this book, even if nothing terribly cataclysmic happens in it. Julie's story is the most combustible, but then again, she's the youngest and with the most wide open future. Constance and Vera, on the other hand, have more spiritual issues to face. For Vera, the journey is one of preparing herself for death. For Constance, on the other hand, the voyage represents an emotional departure from her staid and dull marriage.
This is an evenly paced book, much like the ship's course. It is nicely written, tells a good story, and features likable characters. If it is occasionally unsurprising, it makes up for it with plots that keep you entertained.