“Why In Paris” by Harry F. Rey is a spectacular read.

“The perpetual cusp of war put the artistic class of Paris in a party mood, like the stench of smoke wafting from room to room through Nero’s palace.”

Harry F. Rey  – Why In Paris?

There are simple escapist reads, then there are truly memorable reads. Why In Paris is the latter. Mr. Rey takes us back into a Paris before the war. A time when the Parisian art scene is mourning the glory days of the late 1800s, not realizing that their moment has a temporary glory of its own. And when the Nazis come, everything changes. It is particularly frightening when I consider the rhetoric I hear in the news today.

I love how he has worked many of the great artists of the time into the survival and growth story of Anders, a gay, Austrian-Jewish man. So many luminaries pass through these pages… Jean Cocteau, Jean Marais, Edith Piaf, Josephine Baker, Picaso… enough to give context and flavor, but never upstaging the central characters. Anders’s journey towards finding his strength in a time of absolute terror is extremely compelling. The hypocrisy of the Nazis’ persecution of sex workers is on full display. I had difficulty putting this book down.

Harry F. Rey skillfully weaves history with suspense and imperfect characters who accomplish great things. His language can be rich and poetic. Moments of surprising wisdom rub shoulders with astute observations of human nature.

“‘You can have a defined type, Anders,’ Cocteau said, crossing his legs and blowing out a ring of smoke. ‘Just don’t let the type define you. You’ll never know how many leagues of men have wasted their lives searching for the prosopopoeia of their boyhood fantasies. This one is too short, that too fat, this one too provincial, that one too urbane. Finding love is not about thwacking through a forest of life with a twisted map and broken compass, hoping to stumble across the buried treasure.'”

“‘Love is not the thing you dream of, nor the unknowable ideal constructed entirely in your mind. Love is, and only ever will be, the person standing in front of you, day after day, offering you love, and love is what you feel inclined to give in return.'”

Harry F. Rey  – Why In Paris?

A masterful piece of historical fiction that will make you see Paris with new eyes.

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