I received an ARC of “Paris in the Present Tense” by Mark Helprin. Thank you to W.W. Norton.
I really have a mixed review here. I have heard good things about Helprin’s writing and I was not entirely disappointed on that front. On one side Helprin’s writing is phenomenal. He has this incredible ability to make readers feel like they are inside a character’s mind, almost like they are the character themselves. Having said that about his characters, I feel like the only character I was really drawn to was Jules. His past and the brutal history of his family makes his character extremely attachable. I wanted nothing but good things for his character.
I also had no idea that racial tensions between Jews and Muslims was “a thing” for lack of a better term. The issues discussed in this book made me do my own research to find the sad truth that there are a rising number of assaults on Jews by Muslims tied to the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations and the French state’s refusal to admit such a problem exists. I applaud Helprin for bringing this issue to light by writing this book. For the few remaining Holocaust survivors living in France this must surely feel like a resurgence of a time of hatred that they would rather not experience again.
If you would like to learn more about this issue, I have a few links below that I used when I did my Google search about the topic. These are the most recent news articles but there are more out there. Don’t forget to check your sources.
Despite the good in this book, I feel like the author is very wordy. There were parts that I could not put down and others that made me want to take a nap. While I appreciate the deeper understanding in this novel, I wish it had not taken me almost 100 pages to get into it. I also wish I had felt some emotional attachment to other characters besides just Jules. I felt like Elodi was a forced character and having removed her from the plot the story would be the same.
Overall, it was not a bad book by any means. For me, however, it was simply “ok” and nothing to rave about, though I am happy with the new insights I gained from reading it.
This book is scheduled to be released for publication in October.