Downton Abbey meets Titanic in this sweeping historical novel about three women of different generations and classes, whose lives intersect on a majestic ocean liner traveling from Paris to New York in the wake of World War I.
The year is 1921. Three women set out on the impressive Paris ocean liner on a journey from Paris to New York. Julie Vernet is a young French woman from a working class family who has just gotten her first job as a crew worker on the ship. Escaping her small town and the memory of war, she longs for adventure on the high seas... Constance Stone is a young American wife and mother who has traveled to Paris to rescue her bohemian sister, Faith, who steadfastly refuses to return to America and settle down. Constance returns home to New York, having failed at the duty her father asked of her... Vera Sinclair, a rich, ex-patriate American is leaving France after thirty-one years to live out her remaining time home in America. Over the course of the transatlantic voyage, she reflects on her colorful life and looks forward to a quiet retirement. While each of these women come from different walks of life, their paths cross while at sea in a series of chance encounters. The powerful impact these disparate lives have on one another make for a magnificent and unforgettable read.
Dana Gynther was raised in Alabama, but has lived in Missouri, Massachusettes, France, Costa Rica and Spain. A writer of historical fiction, her first two titles, "Crossing on the Paris" and "The Woman in the Photograph" -- both with a French connection-- were inspired by her own connection to France. She spent nearly two years there after graduating from college, then returned to the University of Alabama to earn an MA in French Literature. After finishing her degree, however, she settled in Valencia, Spain, where she has lived for more than twenty years. Her third novel, "The Admiral's Baths," a multi-period historical, is set in Valencia. She began writing this novel after translating the website for the actual monument, a 14th century public bathhouse in the heart of the city.
So, when I finished this book, I told my husband that it was one of those I liked so much I did not want it to end, and that I wished "the author" had started it BEFORE the main characters boarded the ocean liner and continued it long after they had disembarked.
Full disclosure: I actually said the words "the author" as if I did not know the author, when in fact we have been very friendly if not friends in the conventional sense of the word for decades. Not sure if I can convey what true praise this particular phrasing thus is . . .
Maybe this will do it . . .I dread reading works by people about whom I care. I am always terrified they are going to be dreadful and I will either have to avoid someone in order to never say anything, or that I will somehow hurt their feelings by saying something insipid. This was a really good book!!
Caveat: I've got some good guy friends and co-workers who read these reviews, so I will say that it's probably not going to be y'all's collective cup of tea. :-)
I won't rate this, because I didn't get very far before deciding to skip it. I'm sure it will delight many fans of mainstream fiction, but it was just too weak to keep me interested. It's a very basic plot written in a very basic style that makes my mind wander. Not only does it fail to fire the imagination, but I couldn't bear the plethora of word-use errors.
I really enjoyed Crossing on the Paris. In this debut novel by Dana Gynther, three women are on the maiden voyage of the Paris, a luxury ocean liner headed for America from Le Harve, France. The women are described as "the maiden, the mother, and the crone". Each has her own reason for being on the ship -- each is escaping. The maiden, Julie, has taken a job on the ship, and is serving meals in steerage [3rd class]. Constance Stone is berthed in second class as she makes the trip back to her family after a failed attempt to bring her sister back from France to Amercica. Vera Sinclair, rich and lonely and dying, is returning to America after 30 years in France.
During the course of the book, we watch these women as they take stock of their lives, consider options, make choices. Despite their economic differences, I found these women much more alike than different. I liked them and I cared about them, and that, I think makes a good novel.
With the general historical interest in ocean liners (due to the obviously popular Titanic); a historical fiction novel revolving around passengers on a large ship may seem like an instant “win”. Unfortunately, that is not the case with Dana Gynther’s “Crossing on the Paris”.
Although “Crossing on the Paris” engages a creative concept of following three strangers (Constance Stone, Vera Sinclair, and Julie Vernet) and their connections; the execution fails. The flatness of the first few lines is all it takes to feel Gynther’s detached and somewhat restrained (almost fearful) writing. Gynther’s narrative style is much too “by the book” (no pun intended) concerning writing/plot devices which are taught in college writing courses. This results in a novel which feels forced and is, bluntly, boring.
Gynther’s work is choppy, inconsistent, and with dialogue that one-dimensional; although the descriptions of settings are much better contrived (but only in comparison). Furthermore, “Crossing on the Paris” lacks any true historical value and is merely a contemporary novel trying to incorporate history onto its pages. The novel feels modern, thin, and does not create a historically-rich picture for the reader, thus diminishing believability.
Gynther’s attempts at establishing a correlation amongst the characters also feels compulsory and quite elementary. The novel simply “tries too hard” and devalues any proper arc-building or suspense. On a positive note, “Crossing on the Paris” alternates between the narratives of the characters who have their own personalities and variations in their actions which causes the reader to easily distinguish the three voices and to even pick a “favorite”.
The romantic overtures are not only slight in substance but are also predictable resulting in a filtered experience and a lack of truly “feeling” the novel.
Overall, I simply could not go on (even with the fear of not winning another GR Giveaway). “Crossing on the Paris” is both underdeveloped and fails to capture my attention or present any amusement. There are too many books to read to focus on one which doesn’t enthrall.
In Crossing on the Paris, the ship and the details about passage in steerage, 2nd class and 1st class are all true to life although the women are fictional.
I’ll have to admit it is rather eerie reading a book about an old woman reflecting on her life when her name is the same as mine. The details of her life, however could not be more different. Vera had a brief unsuccessful marriage before moving to Paris where her best friend and almost constant companion was a gay man. She had a string of affairs, which she is recording along with other facets of her life in a set of journals which she re-reads as she considers her life and the wisdom of returning to New York to die.
Constance Stone, somewhat a prisoner of the expectations for women, uncharacteristically leaves her husband and two daughters at home as she goes to Paris in search of her more liberated younger sister. On board, she finds herself attracted to the ship’s doctor and questioning the life of propriety she has been leading.
Julie, the young woman who grew up watching the ships move in and out of the harbor at Marseilles and dreaming of voyaging, has signed on as a maid. Because her looks are marred by a birthmark above her lip, she is assigned to work in third class. Julie, inexperienced with men, falls for the line of a rough Russian worker from the engine room.
From this short description of the three women, it becomes clear that they are prototypes, bearing the burden of representing three social and economic classes, the life aboard ship on three different levels, social mores as they change from the early nineteenth century into the twenties. Sometimes the weight of all this symbolizing comes dangerously close to stereotyping. The author has chosen a difficult and ambitious path.
I breezed through the book, not feeling deep sympathy for any one of the characters but intrigued by the depiction of life on the real ocean liner. I once took a brief tour of the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach, and of course I’ve seen movies galore set on luxurious ocean liners. But this book brought the shipboard life more reality.
This review contains parts of a review written at A Traveler's Library. Read more here.
I requested Crossing on the Paris from the netgalley catalog because of my love of historical fiction. I was drawn to this title for a number of reasons. First, one of my favorite novels, Birdsong, is set in the same era (early 20th century). Second, I love stories that interweave different narratives. And thirdly (is that even a word?) the cover is professionally done and is just beautiful.
The novel spans the trans-atlantic maiden voyage of the fictional luxury liner, the Paris. The book is separated into five main sections, one for each day of oceanic travel. Within each of these “sections” or “days”, we learn the history of the three main characters. Although the three women are living at the same time and are traveling on the same ship, they each have very different experiences during the five day trip.
Gynther does a beautiful job bringing in the historical details that truly bring her story to life. I did find a couple of situations/characters predictable but this did not detract from the story for me. In fact, although I did predict one situation, I was still a bit shocked with how it played out and did not expect it to happen quite like it did.
On a personal level, I appreciated the detail that the author went into with the descriptions of the ship and it’s three levels of passengers, particularly the experiences and plans of the character Julie. My great-grandmother, left Ukraine to escape the communist revolution, in 1918 or 1919, just a couple of years before the start of this novel. She was approximately Julie’s age and as far as I know, was traveling alone. I’ve always pictured her trip across the ocean in small old boat but after reading this novel, I now wonder if she wasn’t actually in the steerage level of some type of ocean liner. While she did not have the exact experience that Julie had, she most definitely did experience the chaos found in the overpopulated steerage level and I appreciate being able to better imagine what it must have been like for her during that voyage.
This is the debut novel of Dana Gynther. If her future novels live up to the promise in Crossing on the Paris, I will be a very happy reader.
The Paris made its first crossing from Europe to America in 1921, just nine years after the Titanic; in fact, Crossing on the Paris is pitched as "Downton Abbey meets Titanic." As a fan of both, I had high hopes for this book, but I was disappointed.
The plot device is thin, but not bad in itself: Julie, a young French woman whose four older brothers were killed in the war, finds work on the ship as a maid in steerage. Constance Stone, a married American with three daughters, is returning home in second class after a failed mission to convince her younger sister to return with her. And Vera Sinclair, an American expatriate, is returning home in first class to die after living most of her life in Paris.
The lives of these three women intersect, but without enough power to carry the book. Furthermore, the characters themselves are more like sketches than real people; the dialogue does not sound natural; and the author's word choices can be jarring.
There is little to surprise or delight here. If you're looking for books about this time period, a better bet would be Charlotte Rogan's The Lifeboat, M.L. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans, Kate Alcott's The Dressmaker, or (set a bit earlier) Jennifer Donnelly's The Tea Rose.
Crossing on the Paris is simply a great book. The story of three women whose lives come together aboard the ocean liner, The Paris, in the 20's is the perfect backdrop for Gynther's fine storytelling. She sees right through the frail human condition, and takes us into the lives of her characters as they each reach their own defining moment. Crossing on the Paris is one of those rare books that transcends genre, and has a wide appeal to an enormous range of readers. This makes it not only a great novel for you bookshelf, but a great gift as well. Well done!
What a breezy and refreshing read! Gender/femininity, class, relationships, love, war, storytelling, motivations, expectations and perceptions are explored via the interweaving of these three women's crossings, against the background of a maiden voyage of an Atlantic ocean liner in 1921.
By the by, I hope the engineman referred to on page 297 is Nikolai. Imagining that event is rather satisfying.
Crossing on the Paris is the story of three women on the move, their lives all on the cusp of change with the insecurity that it brings. Set on the backdrop of the luxury liner The Paris’s maiden voyage to America at the turn of the century (think post WWI). Each interact to solidify or gently redirect themselves on to their proper destinations. You have Julie the young steerage maid who is just starting out in life, Costance the young mother in the middle, and Vera, the older socialite reaching the end of her life.
Julie has seen her four brothers lost to war, and has decided she needs a fresh start. Unsure of herself she begins with the view outside her window; the shipyards outside her home where luxury liners are built; including the aforementioned Paris. Having seen these ships for years she decides they are a ticket to adventure and signs on as a maid to make her way in the world. Unfortunately she discovers it is a hard life for a young woman on a cruise ship, and without the shelters of home or her brothers she finds herself soon taken advantage of. Literally lost at sea she is hurting and directionless.
Constance is a still beautiful young woman who got married young to a much older and stoic man, one who does not share her sense of adventure. Travelling back home to America alone after unsuccessfully trying to convince her more cosmopolitan younger sister to come home she is left to reevaluate her life so far. Seeing her sister so happy living for the moment and chasing hedonistic pursuits, she finds her life lacking. Soon as the Paris sets sail she is soon enamored by the sexy ship’s Doctor, and the life she didn’t chose is opened up for her. Seduced by what could have been she is unsure of what she should do. It is interesting she loses herself in detective novels as she is on the trail of her own answers too.
Vera is the older socialite who is coming home to America to essentially die after 35 years abroad. She is in a sense Constance’s younger sister who has pursued her own desires for a lifetime and is now reflecting back on all the decisions passed. As she struggles with her regrets she is befriended by our other two heroines and other passengers who help her see her worth. We all have regrets but the secret to happiness is to focus on the good, for no one’s life is completely one or the other.
As not to ruin the plot the three ladies eventually meet up and are able to provide support for their many indecisions, ultimately leading to resolutions for each of them. A great freshman effort by Dana Gynter who delivers a well written story. I would have enjoyed a little more plot development to “grab” me, and I will anxiously await that in her next book.
In June of 1921, the Paris is making its maiden voyage across the Atlantic. The paths of three very different women will intersect on the ship, each one using the journey to reflect on her life.
Vera Sinclair is a wealthy, first class passenger on her way back to New York after decades of living in France. Vera's life was full of glamour and adventure, but now she's very sick and wants to return home. As she spends the journey reading over her journals, she begins to question some of her past choices.
Constance Stone was sent to Paris at her father's request to bring home her free-spirited sister. After failing in her mission, she heads back to America as a second class passenger on the Paris. Constance has always been the dutiful daughter and wife, the devoted mother to her own three children, but at what cost? Seeing her sister's freedom in France makes Constance doubt her own life and happiness, or lack thereof.
Julie Vernet is a young, naive woman leaving her home in Le Havre for the first time. World War I has taken a great toll on her family, and she sees her new job as a steerage class waitress on the Paris as her escape. For Julie, life aboard ship is harsh, and her experiences make her desire to improve her circumstances even stronger.
I really enjoyed this book. I liked how the book's chapters were divided into the five days of the journey, and each character told her story about that day. I also liked how the author weaved in bits and pieces of the women's histories. This was not a fast paced book. It was a character-driven story, and the characters were well-drawn and easy to connect with.
I also loved the vivid descriptions of life aboard the Paris on its first transatlantic voyage, from the romance and glamour of the upper decks to the struggles of those "below the waterline." The author captured the essence of the 1920s beautifully.
CROSSING ON THE PARIS is a bittersweet tale fans of women's and historical fiction might enjoy.
Crossing on the Paris is a great historical fiction book. Gynther does a great job of creating a detailed setting on board the Paris ocean liner, I really felt like I was right there with all three women. I was very impressed with how Gynther took the time to descibe all three social classes that were on the ship through the different social classes of each of the three main characters. Through Julie we see the difficulties of being below deck and the misery a lot of these people dealt with along with their excitement and joy in going to America. Constance reveals the middle class passengers and how they enjoyed their time on the ship with playing games, eating good food, and spending lots of time on deck. Finally, with Vera we find how the elite lived in their lavish rooms with impeccable service and delicious food. Gynther constantly goes back and forth between all three characters and it really brought out the sharp difference in experiencing the ship that all three social classes had.
The actual story moved very slowly, but this seemed to be more of a character driven story to me than a book filled with lots of action. Through reading I got to know all three women very well. I would have to say that my favorite character was Vera, I really enjoyed reading about her exciting life, her love for a man she could never have, and the experience she had on the ship looking back on her life. It was a very moving part of the story.
I would highly recommend this book to any historical fiction fan. It is a wonderful look at the 1920's through the eyes of three very different and interesting women.
Three different women board the ocean liner, Paris, for three different reasons. Each woman has a lesson to learn and an issue she must resolve. In alternating chapters we learn each woman's story as as the novel moves from second class to steerage to first class over the five day journey from Paris to New York.
Crossing on the Paris isn't a fast paced story with action. Instead, it is very much character driven and like the ocean liner in its title, the novel moves along steadily, but not quickly. Historically, this is a well researched novel. It's sumptuous and rich in detail and historically, the book is fascinating. The differences between steerage and first class always amaze me and Dana Gynther's descriptions are fantastic.
This is a story I enjoyed and yet I didn't love it. There were a couple of scenes that made me uncomfortable, but I understand why they were there. Some parts I skimmed and others I absorbed. Constance, Julie and Vera all come together towards the end of the book and their story is one that will resonate with many women who understand the need and longing many of us have to connect with one another. It's not the most happiest of books and the ending surprised me a bit, but it fit with the story. I'd love to know more about Julie and how her story ends.
It's 1921, and women now have a right to vote in the U.S. and Prohibition has started. Three women are starting on a voyage from France to the U.S. on a French luxury liner. One is old and in first class, the second is a married woman with three children traveling second class, and the third is a young woman who has obtained a job as a servant on the liner and is housed in plain quarters well below the water line. Is it even likely that these women will ever meet? Each of them has a back story and each of them lives a story on the five-day crossing of the Paris. Other characters both male and female have an important part to play for each of these women. As the older woman looks over her 30 years in Paris, the housewife reflects on her uneventful life, and the young woman struggles with experiences completely different from her dreams, the reader becomes drawn into the story. Passengers on a ship make a great device to tell more than one tale in the same novel. As one of the women realizes at the end of the voyage, each of the two or three thousand people on the ship has had a unique experience to tell about five days crossing on the Paris.
I hate to give a poor review, especially when I got the book in advance from NetGalley, but I have to be honest: I could tell from the first few pages that Crossing on the Paris didn't have the power to entrance, and I should have stopped reading then.
Though the history is accurate - postwar France and America, the different sections of the ship - the characters weren't compelling, the dialogue felt false, the plot was thin. There were no surprises, and little creativity or originality. I was also taken aback by the author's word choices - in many cases, it seemed like she used awkward phrasing, or simply the wrong word.
Though I enjoy reading about this time period, this book was far less magical than I had hoped. Would not recommend.
"Thou hast loosed an Act upon the world and as a stone thrown into a pool so spread the consequences thou canst tell how far." -Kipling (Vera Sinclair, p. 168-169)
...this lifelong journey home... (Vera, after reading Cavafy's Ithaca, p. 293)
I really enjoyed this book. There was a few expected twists of the plot that I anticipated, and were proven true. However there were just as many unexpected twists as well. I liked how this book makes me feel as I close it, warm with the feeling of hope and bright adventures. Not all adventures are enjoyable, but in the end, none are regretted, because we know that each one, good or bad, has changed us in a way that we can build on. Looking back we know we would not be the same good person, if it weren't for ALL our journeys. Here is to living life purposefully!
Read this book if you would like to feel invigorated by the prospects of life.
First one has to like novels,that are introspective, where nothing much happens but the unveiling of characters and a feel for the time and place of the 1920's. This worked for me to a certain point, I did have a favorite character, Vera, and we do get to know these characters thoroughly, from their considerable back stories, their hopes, their dreams and their reasons for being on this ocean liner. It wasn't a book that I hurried to pick up and I think it could have been edited a little tighter and might have benefited from being somewhat shorter.
I was intrigued by the premise of this book but was left wanting more. I don't mean more as in continuation. I mean more in terms of depth of story and depth of characters.
The novel is basically a vignette of three women and their stories. They were from different ages and different classes. I had hoped that they would have had more interaction, but they didn't actually meet until near the end of the book.
I really, really enjoyed "Crossing on the Paris".It tells the story of three women who are each travelling aboard the Paris liner on its maiden voyage. Their lives come together through their individual experiences aboard the ship. I was initially hesitant to read this book, but am really glad that I opened it. I would not only recommend it to others, but would give it as a gift and would consider buying a copy for myself (as the one that I read was from my local library).
I've read this several times. And, happy to have had this privilege. I must say, however, that I love her other (first and as-yet unpublished) novel even more. Look for "The Admiral's Baths" in the future. It's another work of historical fiction, one which revolves around a monument in Valencia-- a public bathhouse open for business from 1313-1959.
Really enjoyed the crossing and the 3 ladies who meet aboard ship. There are historical characters aboard. One of the characters was singing a popular song about the Lusitania I didn't know existed, so had to track that down this morning. There was even a recording! This was one of those book journeys I didn't want to end.
Whether you call it serendipity or divine appointment, the thread that weaves the stories and lives of the three women crossing the Atlantic on the maiden voyage of the Paris is sacred. I found it to be a delightful book.
I liked most of it. I didn't think the ending was as strong as it could have been. And although the entire book was clean up until 3/4 through, it had a pretty short but graphic rape scene that made me uncomfortable.
There were so many directions this could have gone, but I am very happy with the outcome. I enjoyed the three main characters- not equally, but I did like the women a lot. I am still not sure if it's 4 stars or 5 for me. Maybe 4.5.
Great historical fiction story! The three different characters each from a different class on the boat helped to tell the story not only of the time period, but also of the ship. I enjoyed this book a lot. Easy read!