Today is my birthday! I’m 22, which is terrifying, because that means I’m a Real Adult and there aren’t any more legal milestones still to come; no more significant birthdays until 25, I suppose. Horrifying. Who allowed this to happen?
Since it’s my birthday, it seemed appropriate to share a positive review, because it would be a bit of a bad omen to start with a negative one. And it’s also about time-travel! Which is what I would like to do, to go back to a time when I’m not supposed to be adulting. Thanks.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure I only requested Paris Adrift from NetGalley because it’s got such a great cover.
I love the colours, I was intrigued by the cello… never let it be said I’m not shallow. But it paid off, because I ended up really enjoying this, which was a bit of a pleasant surprise.
My first impressions weren’t great: the opening chapters were somewhat confusing, with a lot of jargon and an overall impression that it would be the kind of time travel narrative that ties your brain up in knots. But from there it improved, especially once it settled into Hallie’s viewpoint after a few chapters. If it had opened with her perspective and then jumped to the jargon-y chapters, it might’ve been easier to get into, but it didn’t take too long.
So, this is a time travel narrative, and in some ways it’s the kind I don’t like: the plot revolves largely around the time travel itself and the effects that it has (paradoxes and changes to the future and suchlike), rather than just being a journey that leads to a story in another time. However, there were a few adventures in the past, which is always fun, and more to the point, the travel itself managed not to get too tangly. I’m not very good at following narratives involving paradoxes because they tend to make my brain hurt, but this one doesn’t require that — it just requires you to vaguely thread together alternate pasts and futures, in a way that isn’t overly challenging.
Hallie is a strange protagonist. She’s got a fair bit of emotional baggage — neglectful artist parents who don’t even notice when she takes a year out of uni to live in Paris, for example. But it’s hard to say a lot more about her. She talks about how she lacks a singular focus or passion, and maybe that’s what made her so hard to pin down: she didn’t exactly stand out as a personality. But she was surprisingly engaging despite that; I didn’t actually notice it until I tried to single out the traits I liked about her.
She works in a club or bar that sounds like my personal hell on earth, though: every description of her nights at work just made me infinitely glad I’ll never have to experience that kind of setting.
Other things I liked about this book include the writing style, which was slightly odd and took a while to adjust to. It’s a strangely formal narration, especially coming from a 21st century narrator, but it worked, somehow. And while there weren’t many of the kind of lines that blow me away and prompt much highlighting on the Kindle, there were a lot of oddly beautiful descriptions that weren’t exactly striking but which had a certain style to them. At first I wasn’t a fan, but it definitely grew on me.
The book is also overtly political, responding directly (in many ways) to the rise of the right wing in much of Europe and featuring resistance to fascist regimes, both past and future. Although this came as a slight surprise because I hadn’t known about that from the blurb, I sort of like it when books don’t shy away from addressing the very real issues in society, even if they do it through time travel and other fantastical approaches.
The ending was … powerful. There were a few chapters where I all but held my breath, and felt like I was ready to cry if things took a turn for the worse. I didn’t cry, but I was there. Ready. Just in case.
I’m still confused about some of the time travel stuff; about Janus, which seems to be some kind of organisation, and about Leon. I didn’t entirely fall for the romance plotline, even though it kind of made sense, because hey, I’m me. There were definitely some parts where I could have used some elucidation.
But, overall, I enjoyed it. Especially because it’s a while since I read a book that was just… well-written. I’ve read a couple of disappointingly clumsy books recently, so this made a nice change, even if it took a while for me to adjust to the style.