Book Review for “All the Ways We Said Goodbye” by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White.
This novel brings together three different women during three different eras, all to France, and the Paris Ritz. At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, Aurelie is living at the Ritz in Paris with her mother, but she’s the “Demoiselle de Courcelles,” the daughter of the noble Courcelles family, whose female ancestor has passed down a talisman that, according to legend, can save France but only when it is in the Demoiselle’s hands. Margarite Villon, who calls herself Daisy, was brought up by her grandmother at the Ritz, and has lived in the shadow of her late mother Aurelie’s courage and heroism, but now in 1944, she reluctantly joins the resistance to help save France, with or without the famed talisman. Barbara Langford, or Babs, is a widow in 1964, who has come to the Ritz in Paris to find out more about her husband Kit’s part in WWII, and the mysterious resistance fighter called “La Fleur” whose bravery and courage saved hundreds of lives.
Let’s start with the things I wasn’t crazy about with this novel. To begin with, I don’t like the title at all. Seriously, it is way too romantic for this book, and if it hadn’t been written by these three authors, which we call “Team W,” I would certainly have passed it by. Come on, take a look at the title I’ve given this review – wouldn’t that have been better? Yes, I know… “a rose by any other name” and all that; it still didn’t sit well with me. Of course, when you finish reading the book, you do understand – at least partially – why they gave this book that title, still… something more evocative would have been more appropriate, if you ask me.
The other thing was the romance included here, not that it was squishy or saccharine, but I did take a small issue with the sex scenes. No, they weren’t graphic or explicit at all (I would have stopped reading this book if they were), but with Aurelie, and a bit with Daisy, it seems like all the pillow talk focused on giving the reader family backstories. Really? First, it was implied that Aurelie did have a short relationship and probably fleeting affair with Max Von Sternberg before the war got to Paris and she ran off to her family castle, where Max soon shows up as one of the occupying German forces. Didn’t they talk when they were together before the occupation? Furthermore, it isn’t like they fell into bed with each other the moment he showed up. With Daisy, again, she doesn’t jump into bed with her connection to the resistance right away; they work together for quite a while before that happens. Why didn’t those conversations happen before the sex? Babs, on the other hand, doesn’t get this mistreatment at all, thank goodness.
With that out of the way, I’m sure you already can figure out that I liked Babs the best, because she’s self-conscious, a bit of a prude, and well… more like me than the other two. Plus, she gets this kind of sidekick in the form of Precious, an ex-model living at the Ritz, who decides to gussy up old Babs, just because no one as young as Babs who is staying at the Ritz should look that dowdy! In fact, I think I liked Precious more than I liked Babs – she was such fun, but with so much heart. That sentimental part of Precious comes out when she introduces Babs to her other friends at the Ritz. They include Mrs. Schuyler, who is a craggy old woman who survived the sinking of the Lusitania (just one of the references to Team W’s previous novel “The Glass Ocean”) and the unfortunate Margot, who is dying from cancer. While these two friends of Precious are important to the story, I enjoyed how Precious played the connecting role here, which I found very cleverly done.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t like Daisy and Aurelie – although I could have done without the touch of magical realism in the latter’s story. Both of these women are smart, strong, and independent, and neither of them seem to see their relationships with the men they fall in love with as their sole reasons to fight to go on living. They both live through terrible wars, and both put their own lives in peril for their country. However, while we readers are able to figure out many other things about the various characters far sooner than the protagonists, the one thing that Team W keep us in the dark with until the very end is the fate of that talisman. Although the blurbs about this book talk about the Paris Ritz as being the thing that connects these three women, that hotel is more of a technicality, whereas the talisman plays a larger role in all three of their lives (hence the title of this review).
After all this, I’m having a hard time deciding exactly how to rate this novel. There’s a whole lot to love here, and Team W has once again entwined three main protagonists into one epic saga of a story, with a host of characters that flavor these stories with just the right amounts of sugar and spice (men included). If I hadn’t had some small reservations about a few elements in this book, I’m sure it would get a full five stars, but to be fair, I can’t ignore these, but I can still give it a very healthy four and a half stars out of five, and warmly recommend it to lovers of historical, women’s fiction.
William Morrow-Harper Collins released “All the Ways We Said Goodbye” by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White on January 14, 2020. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Foyles, WHSmith, Waterstones, Walmart (Kobo) US eBooks and audiobooks, the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), Wordery or The Book Depository (both with free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via Edelweiss.