Paris in Ruins is a war story by M.K. Tod. It will keep you reading until the very last page. Raised for a life of parties and servants, Camille and Mariele have much in common, but it takes the horrors of war to bring them together to fight for the city they love. War has a way of teaching lessons – if only they can survive to learn them.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Set in Paris in September 1870, at the moment the France of the Second Empire has fallen to the Prussians, this novel covers little more than one year. But what a year it is. The title says it all. Paris falls into ruins. Yet the story isn’t bleak. Love and friendship blossomed. Characters were tested and found true and strong. Women took on challenges unthinkable before disaster struck. Tragedies struck, and I found myself close to tears. But Camille and Mariele, the heroines, picked themselves up, bruised and shaken but determined to carry on.
Heroines, Camille and Marielle
Camille and Mariele the two young women at the centre of the novel develop in tandem. Camille defies her parents, begging her father to stay in Paris when her mother and remaining siblings flee to Lyon as Paris readies itself for the imminent siege. Rebellious daughter of a rich haute bourgeois family who has experienced nothing but ease, she is eager to defend her city against the hated Boche. Soon she is nursing during the day and spying in the evenings, walking alone at night on bomb-pitted streets in dangerous neighbourhoods. She dares not imagine what her mother would think.
Her future sister-in-law, Mariele, becomes her friend as she proves her mettle. From another rich bourgeois family, her father waits a bit too long to send her and her mother from Paris. Their terrifying encounter with the Prussian enemy, and Mariele’s courage as she handles the protracted encounter, wins Camille’s admiration.
Love in the Time of War
Throughout these events the romances between Mariele and her betrothed, Bertrand, and Camille and her love interest develop slowly. As conditions in the city worsen, the poor starve and freeze, and revolutionary leaders agitate while Paris falls into ruins as battles are fought between the National Guard and the besieging Prussians. Naturally, the young men join the National Guard, so the young women and their families are consumed with worry. As the siege worsens, civil war erupts within Paris. The danger to the rich inside the city seems as imminent as to the French guardsmen outside. The fear and tension are palpable.
The novel plays back and forth between the points of view of Camille and Mariele. Their characters are distinct, yet they frequent a small social circle, so we see the people they encounter from two unique perspectives. For example, seeing Bertrand through his sister’s and then through his fiancé’s eyes adds depth to his character as well as to theirs. Tod manages her cast of characters well. Each is well-rounded and believable, the secondary characters flesh out the story and add drama.
Paris in Ruins, Civil and External War
As the situation worsens, Paris descends into full-blown chaos and civil war. Terror descends as our characters fight to survive. Giving nothing away, I can say the ending brings the novel to a satisfying and believable conclusion. Which is not to say that it is a universally happy one. This is a war story.
Tod is a successful historical novelist who has written several stories that take place in wars settings. Unravelled, Time and Regret and Lies Told in Silence link to France and WWI and WWII. They include some of the descendants of the characters in Paris in Ruins.
Do buy and read this novel. Tod is both a compelling writer and an excellent historian. It is unusual to read a story of this period from rich bourgeois women’s points of view and she tells it persuasively.
Paris in Ruins
Paris In Ruins Retail Links
Amazon Paperback https://www.amazon.com/Paris-Ruins-M-K-Tod/dp/0991967046/
Amazon Canada Kindle https://www.amazon.ca/Paris-Ruins-M-K-Tod-ebook/dp/B08XN1WLQC/
Amazon Canada Paperback https://www.amazon.ca/Paris-Ruins-M-K-Tod/dp/0991967046/