I am pleased to host Rachel Hore on the latest stop of her blog tour today. Her latest book A Week In Paris is out now, here's the blurb and my review will be coming soon!
The streets of Paris hide a dark past…Sounds good doesn't it? Below is a piece written by Rachel Hore discussing her choice of setting:
September, 1937. Kitty Travers enrols at the Conservatoire on the banks of the Seine to pursue her dream of becoming a concert pianist. But then war breaks out and the city of light falls into shadow.Nearly twenty-five years later, Fay Knox, a talented young violinist, visits Paris on tour with her orchestra. She barely knows the city, so why does it feel so familiar? Soon touches of memory become something stronger, and she realises her connection with these streets runs deeper than she ever expected.As Fay traces the past, with only an address in an old rucksack to help her, she discovers dark secrets hidden years ago, secrets that cause her to question who she is and where she belongs…
A compelling story of war, secrets, family and enduring love.
After Kitty and Gene returned from their honeymoon in the south of France early in 1938, they moved into an apartment on the sixth floor of a residential block in St Germain in the 6th Arrondisement, on the left bank of the Seine. Their street, Rue des Palmes des Martyrs, you will not find on any real map, but I imagined it as a typical quiet sidestreet of the neighbourhood, a mixture of apartments and local shops, a street that gets the sun at certain times of day, where people greet neighbours and market stall-holders, but otherwise tend to keep themselves to themselves. I liked the thought of the Knox family living high up, so that they could hear the whistling of the swallows diving for insects in the summer air, and look down behind the building to a tranquil courtyard with an old chestnut tree. Around the corner was the little atelier where Eugene bought a beautiful walnut piano for his bride.
St Germain, like many parts of Paris, is full of peaceful little courtyards and squares that many visitors to the city never see. Being on the edge of the student quarter it has its Bohemian side, but mostly it’s very respectable. Kitty and Gene decided to live there because they already knew the area and felt comfortable in it. Their apartment was also conveniently near where M. Deschamps, Kitty’s teacher, lived and not far from Kitty’s friends at the Convent. It was a bit more of a journey for her to attend the Conservatoire on the Right Bank, and Gene had to take the Métro out west to the American Hospital, but these things were manageable.
One of the main landmarks of the area remains the Romanesque tower of the church of St Germain-des-Prés, once part of a rural abbey. It is the oldest church in Paris, founded in 558 AD and named after a bishop who was buried there. Across the street is the café Les Deux Magots, famous as the favourite watering hole of the Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir and their circle, but that was after Kitty and Gene’s time. It is now an over-priced tourist spot.
In the 19th century, St Germain was an artists’ quarter. Corot and Fantin-Latour both had studios in the Rue des Beaux Arts. Around the corner from St Germain-des-Prés in the lovely leafy Place de Furstenberg, Delacroix lived and worked. The Musée d’Orsay by the river that today houses some of their paintings was a mainline train station in Kitty and Gene’s day.
There are several small pretty parks in this area. In any of them I can imagine Kitty and little Fay meeting Lili and her charge Joséphine. They might have also visited the spacious Luxembourg Gardens down the road, of which Victor Hugo once said, ‘Whoever is there breathes happiness.’
Many thanks to Rachel Hore for writing this piece and to Hayley at Simon & Schuster for organising the tour. Check out the tour information on the side to see where to go next.