Set against the construction of the Eiffel Tower, this novel charts the relationship between a young Scottish widow and a French engineer who, despite constraints of class and wealth, fall in love.
In February 1887, Caitriona Wallace and Émile Nouguier meet in a hot air balloon, floating high above Paris, France - a moment of pure possibility. But back on firm ground, their vastly different social strata become clear. Cait is a widow who because of her precarious financial situation is forced to chaperone two wealthy Scottish charges. Émile is expected to take on the bourgeois stability of his family's business and choose a suitable wife. As the Eiffel Tower rises, a marvel of steel and air and light, the subject of extreme controversy and a symbol of the future, Cait and Émile must decide what their love is worth.
Seamlessly weaving historical detail and vivid invention, Beatrice Colin evokes the revolutionary time in which Cait and Émile live - one of corsets and secret trysts, duels and Bohemian independence, strict tradition and Impressionist experimentation. To Capture What We Cannot Keep, stylish, provocative, and shimmering, raises probing questions about a woman's place in that world, the overarching reach of class distinctions, and the sacrifices love requires of us all.
I'm a novelist/radio dramatist. I've written seven novels (two for children) and numerous plays for BBC Radio 4.
My last novel, To Capture What We Cannot Keep was published in late 2016/early 2017.
I am inspired by new places and old books, snatches of conversation and boards on Pinterest (seed catalogues from the 19th century!) I am a list-maker, a grower, on a good year, of fruit and vegetables, a walker of old paths and a mother of teenagers.
Writing novels helps me to discover something new - about the world, about history, about myself.
I'm a sucker for anything related to Paris, and especially the building of the Eiffel Tower? SOLD!
Two storylines that weaved together this narrative regarding the architecture and building of the Eiffel Tower and a Scottish family that is traveling to the city for vacation. Emile Nouguier was an engineer that helped design and build the tower during the late 1880's in time for the World's Fair. Enter in an extravagant family- the Arrol's and their chaperone- Mrs. Wallace. Alice & Jamie were flamboyantly embarrassing as they mingled with the French social scene. Cait (Mrs. Wallace) was widowed and did her best to wrangle these hooligans. Emile spots Cait for the first time above a hot air balloon tethered to the ground- le sigh! The novel opened with such promise and I was buckled in for a strong narrative. The storyline petered out- too many alternate storylines and characters to try to keep up with and too many dull paragraphs describing rivets and metal.
Overall, this one falls right down the middle for me- towards the end, the narrative was stronger and I could not put it down, but it took a long time to get to that point in this book for me. Looking forward to see what Ms Colin researches next.
Thank you to Netgalley and Flatiron Books for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Francophiles will flock to this beautiful historical romance, set against the revolutionary construction of the Eiffel Tower in the late 1880’s. To Capture What We Cannot Keep will entice any reader who selects this novel, to book their ticket to see this spectacular landmark. This book offered me the chance to reminisce about my two trips in the past to see the Eiffel Tower and surrounds.
To Capture What We Cannot Keep begins on a cold winter’s day in February 1887. Caitriona Wallace, a Scottish widow, turned chaperone, is in Paris with her charges. Siblings Alice and Jamie Arrol, the niece and nephew of the wealthy builder are on a grand tour of Europe. Part of this grand tour is stop in Paris and an opportunity of a lifetime, to embark on a hot air balloon ride above Paris. This spectacular ride also takes its occupants across the construction site of the Eiffel Tower, set for completion for the 1889 world’s fair. High above Paris, sparks fly in this hot air balloon as Caitriona meets Emile Nouguier, an engineer second in charge to Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s inventor. When they reach the ground, Emile and Caitriona quickly realise their romance is doomed by class and wealth. Caitriona is a woman reduced in wealth due to her husband’s death, Emile in contrast, is from a wealthy bourgeoisie background. Emile’s family expects him to soon take over their business and take a wife. Emile knows his family would not accept a woman of Caitriona’s class or the fact that she is also a foreigner. When Caitriona returns to Scotland after the tour ends she turns down advances to enter marriage again. She still believes in true love, hoping to one day be reunited with Emile. Meanwhile, Emile battles with a tumultuous relationship with an enigmatic figure, Gabrielle, an artist’s wife. When an opportunity presents itself for Caitriona to return to Paris and back into Emile’s arms, the couple must decide if their love for one another can surpass class and finance.
When the opportunity arose to review this book, I literally jumped at the chance. Those who know me well know how much I adore anything Paris related. To Capture What We Cannot Keep satisfied my hunger for reading any story set in what would be my most favourite place in the world, Paris. To Capture What We Cannot Keep offers the reader the ideal combination of romance, fused with a historical commentary on Paris, at a time of great change. Colin is skilled in her ability to bring 1880’s Paris to life for her audience. It was a joy to step back in time and experience this momentous time in France’s history.
Although this story is fictional, Colin chooses to insert a real life character, Emile Nouguier, at the front and centre of her story. To Capture What We Cannot Keep also features Gustave Eiffel, the man behind the inception and construction of the famous tower. While Caitriona and the siblings she is chaperoning are fictional, all come across as well formed by Colin.
Romance and Paris seem to go hand in hand and To Capture What We Cannot Keep features a delightful love story. Caitriona and Emile’s love story is sweet but also features moments of inner struggle. Colin highlights the issues of the time that are outside their control, such as class divisions. The romance side of the novel also allows Colin to explore a significant issue, the plight of women in this era. The unfolding story makes us see how Caitriona is restricted to follow her heart and fall completely in love with Emile. Colin draws our attention to women of Caitriona’s social standing, who were offered little choice in their lives, especially in relation to love. Caitriona’s predicament was heartbreaking and frustrating, making me see how we should not take the freedom to love who we want for granted in the present day.
To Capture What We Cannot Keep is a dazzling story of the risks taken in love and life, in an age of social restriction and revolution. It delivers the perfect combination of history and romance to its audience and I am sure it will have wide appeal.
*Please note that a free copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes through Beauty and Lace.
An interesting historical fiction about the building of the Eiffel Tower. Colin does a wonderful job capturing the feel of Paris in 1886-89. This was a fascinating time and Colin finds a way to bring it together. Emile’s mistress is the wife of a minor Impressionist painter, so the art world is represented. Colin also shows the conflict between the classes and how “the city had been constructed for one class at the expense of another”.
It's interesting how what we totally take for granted, the Eiffel Tower, was such a great unknown. Could it be built, what was it meant to be, was it a benefit or a calamity to The City Of Lights? Colin captures the feat of it, as well as the differences of public opinion.
This is mostly women’s fiction, with its necessary romance, but it's a well done one. Spoiler - I like that there is no happy ending here. In real life, Emile never marries.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I was immediately drawn to the cover of To Capture What We Cannot Keep. Paris is one of my favorite cities. I’m also fascinated by the construction of the Eiffel Tower. In fact, I love reading about all of the World’s Fairs . Needless to say, I was really looking forward to this book.
Sadly, there was much about it that did not work for me. First, in fairness, I must admit that I’m not sure I was the intended audience for this book. At the time I requested it, the genre was listed as General Fiction. I feel that it would have been more appropriately categorized as Women’s Fiction and/or Historical Romance. Based on the blurb, I was prepared for a significant romantic element to the story but I thought there would be more details about Paris, the construction of the tower, etc. I didn’t feel there was much to this book beyond the romances of the various characters. It was just tooooo romance-y for me. (Amazon now lists this book as General Fiction, British & Irish Fiction, and Historical Romance.)
I also had some difficulty with the characters. Most were one-dimensional and predictable in their actions. This coupled with the recurrent issues of romance between classes made for slow pacing. The character I appreciated the most was Gabrielle, Émile’s mistress early on in the book. Though I can’t say I liked her, I found her to be oddly fascinating and well-drawn.
There were some elements of mystery woven into the story that worked very well. I think the story of Cait’s marriage and early widowhood could have been expanded upon.
Overall, this wasn’t a bad book; it just wasn’t for me. I would recommend it to someone who enjoys a true romance novel.
Many thanks to Flatiron Books for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
One of the things I love most about reading is being able to learn about history while being entertained. I loved To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin so much. I was hooked from the first page by her writing style. Her phrasing is so lyrical, her observations so unique, the scenes she takes us through so moody, all the while she still has the ability to hone in on universal truths that all of us can appreciate.
Set inside this fascinating look at the construction of the world’s most recognizable landmark are two stories that weave back and forth between a widowed Scottish woman and the principle architect/engineer of the Eiffel Tower. There are other well-drawn characters that act like currents that continually push Caitriona and Émile close, only to draw them further apart.
There is such a rich sense of life in Paris during the late 1800s—you can almost smell and feel and taste everything as the author describes it. Every scene is so well wrought, so rich with detail. But it is her insights into the characters’ hearts and souls that is what really captured and held my attention. In this way, I would say that I was able to capture something that I will always keep, a powerful, atmospheric story that will always live in my heart.
To Capture What We Cannot Keep is a historical fiction romance, set in Paris during the construction of the Eiffel Tower. It's on a hot air balloon ride where Caitriona Wallace and Emile Nouguier meet. Cait is a widow and Emile is an engineer who is working on the Eiffel Tower.
When Cait first set eyes on Emile her heart skips a beat. Could this be the beginning of something or is the timing is all wrong? I enjoyed this book and found parts of it really interesting. With thanks to Goodreads first reads for my copy to read and review. Recommended.
Beatrice Colin's book To Capture What We Cannot Keep would be an interesting book to read before going to Paris. I wish I had done that! The novel begins in 1886 and ends in 1889, when the Eiffel Tower (A building without a skin) is completed. The characters in the story are realistic and believable. Mrs. Wallace (Cait), a paid companion to supervise Alice and her brother Jamie Arol, Emile Nouguier, the designer and Gustave Eiffel all bring the reader back to a very different Paris. The plight of women, especially a widow, is reflected in this novel. This novel is a wonderful read about literature, music, architecture, romance and women issues of the time.
It's hard to find an intelligent romance novel today and this was the exception. It was intriguing to learn about the construction of the Eiffel Tower as well as the lives of the French impressionist artists living at that time. The pages flew through my fingers and I look forward to reading more from this author.
This book was slow , and it isn't so much focused on the construction of the Eiffel Tower as much as it is focused on the lives of the main characters. But that aside the book really picks up after the first 100 pages and you get caught between the lives of its characters, you are treated to mental images of Paris and its surroundings , the growth of all the characters is rewarding and most of all it feels real, it doesn't feel like it couldn't happen , the characters are flawed but then again that's what I like to see in the literature I read . The love story inside the book it's very well taken upon and has a nice if not satisfying conclusion. But to be honest the feature that I loved most about this book is the setting .
Отворих я, за да извадя цитати за пост в блога на издателството. 200 страници по-късно бях забравила, че трябва да си тръгна от работа. Увлекателен и нежен роман, който е много повече за изкуствот��, отколкото за Париж, за ефимерността на времето, отколкото за любовта и за крехкия баланс между очакваното от нас и онова, за което копнеем. "Цветя от лед и пепел" е красива книга за нетрайността на красотата и вечният човешки стремеж да я задържим още миг.
I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
It's the late 1800s and the Eiffel Tower is still plans on paper. Cait is 30-something chaeprone to a young girl and her brother visiting Paris when they meet engineer Emile on a hot air balloon ride. Cait and Emile immediately have an undeniable spark but circumstances push them apart while faith pushes them together. Their story plays out as the backdrop shows the famous Eiffel Tower being built and takes us through the winding, romantic streets of Paris, France.
This book was a really lovely read. I don't think it's one for someone who likes action-packed stories, this was a quieter, slow-moving read and one that didn't have any amazing action. It was just about two people going about their life and realising their attraction towards each other. I really enjoyed both Cait and Emile and I felt like I got a feel for who they were as characters very quickly at the start of the book. I enjoyed learning more about them and their life and really loved seeing how they kept ending up together. I thought Cait was a quietly courageous character, she had to be herself while being constrained by the time in which a widowed woman had very little options. Emile was a character that earned a lot of respect, he was kind but firm and clever.
I loved the little tidbits about the Eiffel Tower and there was a part of me that wanted to reach into the story and show he characters the tower lit up in Paris the way it is today to show them what it would mean. It was interesting to find out how it was built and the complexity of the structure - a lot of research had to go into that and it was obviously really well done.
The ending was a bit meh for me - it was simple and cute but I would have liked a bit more I think. Overall though, I really enjoyed my read and the writing was really great!
In an age when overexposure threatens to sap the magnitude of everything’s physical presence, the Eiffel Tower is one of those rare treasures that never loses its power to awe. Constructed for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, the iron lattice rose 1,000 feet into the sky, soaring past the Washington Monument to become, for decades, the tallest structure in the world. Guy de Maupassant called it a “giant and disgraceful skeleton,” and Léon Bloy dubbed it a “truly tragic lamppost,” but it nonetheless survived its intended 20-year life and then, toward the end of World War II, Hitler’s order to blow it up. Now it remains among the world’s most-visited monuments, still inspiring a blend of recognition and surprise.
There’s a little of both those qualities in “To Capture What We Cannot Keep,” Beatrice Colin’s historical novel about the construction of the Eiffel Tower. Even while telling a very intimate story, Colin attends to the extraordinary mechanics. . . .
In 1889, at 324 meters, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world.
Gustave Eiffel at the time of construction of the Eiffel Tower was already a well-known engineer. The tower was the most controversial structure of its time while being build. Once finished, it became the most popular and famous construction, solidifying Gustave Eiffel’s fame.
But who designed the Eiffel Tower? It was Emile Nouguier and Maurice Koechlin.
This book explores a little-known figure of Emile Nouguier. The archives reveal very little of Nouguier’s life. His education at Ecole Polytechnique in Paris and his achievements in architecture and civil engineering are facts, but the rest of his private life is attractively imagined in this story. He never married.
The story is set between 1886 and 1889 against the background of building the controversial Eiffel Tower, bringing renowned names of Parisian society.
In Glasgow, Caitriona Wallace, 31, is a widow and due to poor financial management, she is forced to look for a position. The options are very few for women at the end of the 19th century. She accepts a position as a chaperone to two wealthy young Scots, Alice and Jamie Arroll, accompanying them on a tour of Europe. While in Paris, on a hot-air balloon ride, she meets Emile Nouguier. A brief encounter, ending with two people longing for each other. When back in Glasgow, she is introduced to Roland Sincalir. But her thoughts are with another man.
As Jamie Arroll wants to take an apprenticeship at Gustave Eiffel’s firm, here comes Cait’s chance to go back to Paris.
As the story develops, the background of each individual is skillfully revealed. It also engages the subject of societal expectations. The book has short chapters, making it a quick read with richly imagined historical detail and vivid invention.
This wasn't an action packed read but lovely and enjoyable nonetheless. It is a story of contemplation and self realization in the course of Cait Wallace's life when she is hired to chaperone a young pair of siblings as they visit Paris during their Grand Tour. Set against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower as it's being built, Cait meets Emile Nouguier, a designer of the tower who creates an awakening in Cait to want more than just being a widowed chaperone on the brink of spinsterhood. Again this was not an action filled novel, but the writing was well wrought and the story was wonderfully atmospheric of it's period, could envision the loveliness of Paris in all it's wonder.
There is something glamorous and intriguing about this time in history that just draws you into this book. Colin has created a unique and interesting story surrounding the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. There are also beautiful passages and gorgeous descriptions of the fashion and lifestyle during the time period. However, the main character, Cait, goes through so many personality changes that I had a hard time liking her as a character towards the end of the novel.
If you have ever read or watched any of the numerous mini-series that document and romanticize the building of the Titanic, you will have a sense of what this book is about. Beatrice Colin beautifully depicts the setting of Paris and the landscape pre-Eiffel Tower. There are many elaborate and interesting moments throughout the story that describe the materials, techniques and hardships that went into constructing this famous structure. It was very fascinating to read the opinions of Parisians and their aversion to this monument that is a symbol now associated with the country.
I also really enjoyed the passages in To Capture What We Cannot Keep that Colin wrote to beautifully describe the elaborate clothes worn during the late 1800s. Fashion and appearance were of great importance at the time and it was delightful to read about what the characters were wearing to art shows attended by Seurat. I especially loved the scene where the characters were skating and taking advantage of showing off a little bit of ankle!
While there are numerous aspects of the novel that I adored, the protagonist Cait, is one that I found relatable at first and then at about 3/4 of the way through the book became a somewhat dislikable character. Without spoiling too much of the plot, I will just say that I was disappointed with the lack of direction she gave to the young adults that she was chaperoning. I felt that for someone who is trying to break the norms of society and find her own place in the world, she could have been more inspiring and helpful to Alice and Jamie.
To Capture What We Cannot Keep is a beautifully written novel that will whisk its readers right into the time period of 1887 flawlessly. It is quite an enjoyable historical fiction that provides a window to an era long forgotten. Although the main character fell flat for me, I do think that those who enjoy historical fiction will find this novel quite enjoyable.
I love all things French and especially Parisian, so when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. Set in 1880s Paris during the construction of the Eiffel Tower, To Capture What We Cannot Keep is a historical novel, but it’s also a romance. Not a genre romance, but a story of a man and a woman who fall in love and want desperately to be together. Cait and Émile certainly had their challenges, but I couldn’t help but cheer them on, even when their relationship seemed pretty hopeless.
More than the romance, though, I enjoyed Colin’s writing. Her imagery is so vivid and creative, and I really enjoyed reading about late nineteenth century Paris through her story. I also appreciated the complexity of the characters and the fact that they mostly behaved as they should within their own time, and when they didn’t, there were repercussions.
I gave this book four stars because I enjoyed the writing and the story, but it did have some clunky bits. In one instance, Cait was walking outside, thinking about flowers and bushes, and then out of nowhere jumped to a specific thought about Émile. It didn’t make sense and lacked the proper transition. One minute we were reading about the colors of a flower petal, the next, misgivings about Émile’s interest in Cait. If I operated on a half star system, I would give this a solid three and a half stars, but because that’s more complicated than I want to get into and because I really did enjoy reading this, I’ll stick with four.
If you enjoy historical fiction with a romantic undertone, and if you’re curious about what Paris was like during the construction of the Eiffel Tower, this just might be the book for you. Go ahead and give it a try!
Three and a half stars. This is an atmospheric novel. A romance combined with the story of the building of the Eiffel Tower. The story starts in 1887 when Caitriona Wallace, companion to Alice and Jamie, a spoiled rich young sister and brother, meets Emile Nouguier in a hot air balloon over Paris. Emile is an engineer working with Gustave Eiffel on the tower. Cait and Emile are attracted to each other but their different social classes present obviously insurmountable barriers. The setting and time are conveyed well and the characters are both interesting and frustrating in the way they behave. The writing is at times beautiful. As well as the beauty of Paris it also shows the seamier side of the city and its inhabitants and their affairs and duplicity. To me, a couple of times some of the language used sounded unnecessary and out of place in the era in which the story is set. The amount of information about the tower up to and including the number of rivets used in its building, is interesting. I wasn’t convinced about the ending, but that may be just me. Anyone who has visited Paris, or who enjoys historical novels and romances should enjoy this story, so long as you are prepared for the languid pace at which it moves most of the time. For me the most enjoyable part of it was without doubt the setting of Paris and all the information about the building of the Eiffel Tower. Thanks to The Reading Room and Allen&Unwin, for my uncorrected proof copy to review.
Приятен макар и клиширан роман за периода на строежа на Айфеловата кула. Подходящо леко четиво за отмора на мозъка между две по-сериозни книги. Винаги съм имала пробл��м да намеря непретенциозен роман, който да не е написан малоумно за моментите, когато искам да си почина от моите любими мизантропи и депресари. В този смисъл "Цветя от лед и пепел" ми дойде добре. Печели половин допълнителна звезда само заради корицата.
Още с първите прочетени страници знаех, че тази книга ще се погрижи със се��мици наред да не знам къде се намирам. Беатрис Колин пише омагьосващо. С оскъдно количество думи предава такава палитра от емоции, че ти е трудно да дишаш и четеш. Речникът ми не е достатъчно богат, за да мога да опиша как всяка дума, всяко изречение от книгата е пропито с тъга и самота, и с нещо неопределено, но обрамчващо и тегнещо над всички герои като вечните сиви облаци, стелещи се в небето над Единбург. Не ми се беше случвало да не изпитвам негативни чувства към нито един герой от дадена книга. Не знам как, но през цялото време изпитвах симпатии и топлина към всеки един случаен и неслучаен герой от книгата, дори и към Габриел. Всеки е впримчен в капана на своето социално положение, на своето минало и отговорности, на своите качества и слабости. Всичко е като един безкраен кръг, от който няма бягство. Колин е пресъздала прекрасно това усещане за обреченост и безсилие. Макар това да е роман за един период на преход, на ръба на новото време, то ако човек позволи на думите да стигнат до него, ще се усети, че в днешни дни всички ние все още не можем да избягаме от изискванията и тежестта на света, в който се намираме, но не бива да спираме да опитваме. Книгата е прекрасна, а изграждането на Айфеловата кула е любимият ми щрих от целия роман. През цялото време кулата постепенно се издига нагоре, несигурна дали ще устои, дали си струва риска... До момента, в който е завършена и се извисява гордо над Париж. Чак тогава, накрая, осъзнаваш, че кулата през цялото време по един дискретен начин ти е намеквала как някои неща в живота си струват риска... :)
I loved this book. Not only was there a love story, there was a story about the building of the Eiffel Tower. The latter being very interesting. I didn't realize all the turmoil and protests about having it built. Also, the builders were thinking it would only stand for 20 years.
I love historical fiction and learning about different things. So I pleasantly surprised when the book got into the details of the Tower. I also didn't know that Gustave Eiffel was involved in the Panama Canal, as well.
The love story was a sad one. And Gabrielle was a witch with a capital "B".
This was a very entertaining book and I very much enjoyed it. The cover is absolutely beautiful, as well.
Huge thanks to Flatiron Books for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
Colin's book about Cait Wallace and her charges' in Paris during the construction of the Eiffel Tower really disappointed me. I imagined I would be falling into the magical word of Paris during one of its most beautiful ages. Instead I was given an odd omniscient narrative by one who sometimes knew everything and other times just sort of sat there. This book just couldn't hold my interest. My mind would wander multiple times in single paragraphs. There were occasional stunning descriptions of Parisian fashion but they were few and far between. Colin's touched on an ability for a beautiful narrative but didn't make it. I would have liked to see more time spent with the characters, particularly Cait, and with her developing a backbone. She was always dallying around with no purpose, which was very strange to me. As a widow she had the power to do what ever she wanted, yet she did nothing. Jamie and Alice were not exciting either. Maybe that's why Cait paid little to no attention to them. Jamie acted more like Alice's father than her brother and Alice was just the stereotypical Rich Girl with Zero Depth. Emile was a character that I wanted to like but he had a vibe to him that didn't sit well with me. Sort of a I'm-a-good-guy-but-also-have-the-chopped-up-fingers-and-toes-of-those-who-have-done-me-wrong-in-a-jar-next-to-my-bed kind of vibe. I was never rooting for him and Cait. Mostly I wanted Cait to make a choice for herself and do something that actually excited her. Finally there were some editing moments in the book that were sloppy, which I found distracting. Like I said, I was looking forward to this book and it fell short of my vision for it. I think Colin's could have written in Cait's view and focused on Cait finding herself in Paris, and the story would have been fantastic.
I love historical fiction and I was intrigued by the blurb for this book which promised details about the engineer who designed the Eiffel Tower and why it was built.
I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of the book when we meet Caitriona Wallace, a young widow who is employed as a chaperone to two wealthy charges and Emile Nouguier who is the designer of the Eiffel tower. The two meet in a ride in a hot air balloon, although they are tethered to the ground all of the time it is still a unique experience and was well described.
The late 1800’s was a revolutionary time when the boundaries of strict social traditions were being challenged along with incredible artistic experimentation including,of course, the impressionists whose art was just surfacing.
I had hoped that the relationship between Cait and Emile would be enough to keep the flow of this book going for me but unfortunately I felt that it just dragged throughout and I didn’t feel as though I really knew either of these characters very well. There were so many morality issues discussed and I was hoping that their love would “conquer all”. Instead I kept wanting to go back to the building of the Eiffel tower and news of the art world in Paris at the time.
This was just an average read for me and I don’t think that I could really recommend it highly. There was some great information about Paris at the time and the construction of the tower but otherwise it just felt like a lukewarm romantic novel.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this novel.
I was intrigued by the cover & description of this book. The story, while enjoyable to read, just wasn't as captivating as I'd hoped.
Perhaps it was BC's choice to allude to various events throughout the book and let the reader decide what happened, but I found that a bit frustrating. Also, the formatting of the book had me scratching my head a few times as it wasn't overly clear that at certain points you were reading a flashback. I had to go back and re-read to get straight what was going on.
What I loved about the book: -the Paris setting -some of the background for the building of the Eiffel Tower
What I didn't connect with: -Jamie & Alice .. both acted like spoiled entitled brats. -Emile & Cait ... their 'relationship' just didn't sizzle for me. Perhaps it's due to the setting/guidelines of courting in the 1880's.
A Historical Fiction novel with a romance in Paris! Ahhh, l'amour!
What struck me about this novel was the historical detail that Colin brings to her story. Paris and the Eiffel Tower's very early days were clearly described for the reader and each played roles within the plot. This is a very atmospheric read and Colin places her readers deep in the heart of 19th century Paris with its culture, food and social mores (including the limitations for women at the time). She also shows the dichotomy of Paris' social classes - with its glamour, opulence and culture on one hand and in the other, the gritty, filthy streets where people struggle to make ends meet. This history of the Eiffel Tower was fascinating and those bits saved this book for me.
Unfortunately, the romance was lackluster at best. I didn't think the connection between Emile and Cait was strong and found the 'obstacles' that they faced to be together weren't as monumental or as daunting as they were portrayed.
Other characters weren't substantial either with not enough page time devoted for the reader to get to know them. Cait herself was a weak main character and I didn't have a connection with her or her poor judgement. Other characters, like Cait's young charges, were caricatures and the epitome of spoiled, insipid snobs yet interesting characters, like Gabrielle, weren't used as well as I would have hoped.
This is a slow-paced book with only a handful of scenes, mainly in the last quarter of the book, that gave the plot some vitality. It was also evident how things would play out and I struggled to stay invested in the story to the point where I was skimming pages to finish it. The ending, without giving away a spoiler, was rushed, unrealistic and felt tacked on to appease readers.
Overall, my feelings for this book are all over the place. It was a decent read of an interesting historical era but very weak in the romance department, pacing and character development. What I will take away from it is a newfound knowledge of 19th century Paris as well as the early days of the Eiffel Tower and the man who designed it but, sadly, the plot and characters will not stay with me long.
Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl....you know the drill.
But, even though the structure is totally predictable this is just a gem of a novel even from someone who finds most romance novels trite even if they are fashioned in a historical novel with some really solid writing.
Set against the backdrop of the construction and opening of the Eiffel Tower for the 100 year anniversary of the French Revolution and in advance of of the 1889 World's Fair, Caitriona Wallace, a Scottish widow in her early 30's, has been hired as a chaperone for siblings Jamie and Alice Arrol, by their uncle for the young siblings tour throughout Europe. In France they cross paths with Emile Nouguier, an engineer second in charge to Gustave Eiffel, in a hot-air balloon ride over Paris. Emile and "Cait" are immediately drawn to each other but it is a seemingly impossible match because Emile is expected by his aging mother to marry a woman of means who can inject the needed resources into the family manufacturing business in order to modernize operations (not to mention with whom to have children). On the other hand way-ward Jamie has recognized the promising match between Emile and his younger sister.
I think what saved this read for me (apart from the solid historical tid-bits) was I loved the characters, every one of them (okay with the exception of Gabrielle and Emile's mom). I even loved Jamie, who I would despise in real life. But, his boundless enthusiasm for the hear and now was endearing. There was one exception to this rule, that was simply inexcusable. But in every other aspect including his constant match-making he was a great character. But, they were all authentic and had their flaws. I even wanted to shake Emile a time or two.
I had two quibbles. One, and this is a huge pet-peeve. I think every writer of historical fiction should provide an author's note, which was lacking here. Secondly, the ending was just too neatly tied in a bow, which I guess is the way of romances but here the metaphoric children just seemed a bit too tidy.
Impossible-to-remember title! (Authors, don’t do that!) Impossible to put down, though (at least for me). I must admit, I bought this book — preordered it, in fact — mostly on the basis of the gorgeous jacket illustration (Eiffel Tower, large snowflakes, metallic gold filigree border) and because I enjoy almost anything about Paris or the Eiffel Tower. And fortunately, this time it worked out for the best. The book is quite well written, and provides a lot of background about the construction of the Eiffel Tower, as well as some beautiful descriptions of Paris.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book, though some of the plot is far-fetched, and I was at times exasperated by the main character, Cait. It’s made clear to us more than once that she’s not like the typical Parisian woman, that she’s less conventional, more daring. But as the story unfolds, she fails again and again to stand up for herself and follow her heart. In addition, she sure doesn’t do a very good job of doing her job! She has no idea what her charges are up to and seems uninvolved with their comings and goings. I thought some plot elements were questionable. Jamie was at times just too cavalier to be believable (or in any way sympathetic). The duel just seemed slipped in there and not necessary. And why would Gustave care so much about whether Émile married Alice (i.e., enough to fire him)?
I liked it, though. Kept turning the pages, unwilling to pause for long. If you think of it as a romance novel, then it’s an especially intelligent and literary one.
Incredibly atmospheric, extremely alluring, and remarkably insightful.
This story is predominantly set in Paris in the late 1880s when the city was bursting with industrialization, immigration, artistic freedom, and high fashion; and is, ultimately, a story about familial obligations, social acceptance, independence, morality, impropriety, secrets and passion.
The prose is clear, precise, descriptive and fluid. The characters are genuine, engaging, and complex. And the story has two distinct plots; one involving the ingenuity, foresight, hardships and struggles involved in the creation and completion of the iconic Eiffel Tower; and the other the budding romance developing between Émile Nouguier, a wealthy, upper-class engineer, and Caitriona Wallace, the lowly, Scottish widower.
I will say that although I enjoyed reading this novel I did find the ending a little lacklustre and wish that it had just a little bit more.
However, overall this book is well written, well researched, with a varied cast of characters that is well worth the read.
Thank you to NetGalley, especially Flatiron Books, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Reread in 2020 Still one of my fav. It’s like the cheapest trip to Paris you can buy 😍. The references to places and artists, painters remain my favorite part of this book. The atmosphere and setting as well, if you’re not interested in any of those aspects in this type of historical fiction then skip this one, can’t recommend. The audiobook narrated by Polly Stone is simply magical. I read the physical copy the first time, and listened to the audiobook for my reread and she remains as one of my favorite audiobook narrators 😀
4.5 Is it perfect? No. But I absolutely loved it! 😍
On the backdrop of the construction of the Eiffel Tower, Beatrice Colin builds a story that is perfect for those who like some romance with their historical fiction. You can read more about this novel in my review here. https://tcl-bookreviews.com/2016/11/1...