LAST TRAIN TO PARIS
Inspired by the death of a distant cousin who was murdered in Paris in 1937, Last Train to Paris is a gripping epic about a female reporter from Nevada who writes for the Paris Courier in the 1930’s. The sole woman in the newsroom, she lives with both sexism and anti-Semitism. Then she meets Leon, a German radical and anti-Nazi and realizes that while Paris is interesting, the truly vital historical story is taking place across the border. Rose undertakes an assignment in the Paris Courier press office, where she is initially happy. When World War II is declared, Americans are forced to leave the country and Rose must make an agonizing choice: Who will go with her on the last train to Paris?
Told from the vantage point of Rose as an elderly woman, Last Train to Paris is at once a historical epic, a love story, and a psychological portrait of one woman’s gradual discovery of who she really is after years of being invisible to herself.
PRAISE and REVIEWS
“Michele Zackheim’s books, like treasure hunts, send their narrators scuttling after hidden gems. In Violette’s Embrace, an artist travels to Paris to unearth secrets about the writer Violette Leduc. In Einstein’s Daughter, Zackheim herself goes abroad to investigate the mysterious fate of the scientist’s illegitimate daughter. And in her new novel, Last Train to Paris, an elderly New York journalist named Rose digs through an old trunk of papers that holds reminders of her past life and lost love.
Last Train to Paris transports Rose across oceans and eras, back to the sexist, swaggering newsrooms of 1930s New York and Paris, where she worked as a young reporter. The novel pits love against war, and in chronicling Hitler’s rise to power it finds echoes of warfare at the personal and social levels. Rose battles her mother, who has trailed her from America to Europe, even as Germany moves against its neighbors. Meanwhile, lawyers do combat in the French courts: A German national has murdered Rose’s cousin, a Jew, in Paris, and Rose is helping cover the trial. This murder cleverly prefigures Hitler’s invasion of France, which follows within months. (Zackheim based this element of the book on the 1937 abduction of her own distant cousin.)
Zackheim presents startlingly vivid images of life in Hitler’s Europe. She indicates the haunting disparity between two types of passengers boarding a ship in Le Havre: holidaying Americans who dance up the gangplank, bearing gifts; and Jewish refugees fearfully leaving their homes forever. Describing Kristallnacht in Berlin, she writes: “Because there was no wind, clouds of smoke were perched on top of each burning building. In between the buildings . . . we could see the stars.””
– The New York Times Sunday Book Review
“This engrossing, historical novel from Zackheim (Violette’s Embrace) has the feel of a memoir. This may be partly because she based it on an incident involving a German national’s abduction of a distant cousin in 1937. Rose “R.M.” Manon is a crack American reporter in prewar Paris when a cousin from the States is murdered during a visit to the City of Light. The accused murderer’s trial is attended by R.M. and such luminaries as Colette and Janet Flanner in cameo appearances. Also attending the trial is, of all people, R.M.’s mom, with whom she has a tortuous relationship that is intertwined with issues of Jewish identity. That relationship even threads its way through the journalist’s love for a Berlin Jew who is forced to work for the Nazis so he and his family can survive. Though Zackheim does not identify it as such, her depiction of Kristallnacht is one of the most chilling this reviewer has ever read. VERDICT The author revivifies the drama of the interwar years and convincingly relates these historical events to a very personal albeit fictional narrative. Highly recommended to readers interested in women’s issues, the history of the era, and the Holocaust.”
– Library Journal
“In Michele Zackheim book, Einstein’s Daughter: The Search for Lieserl, she revealed the true story of the famous Nobel Prize winner’s hidden daughter, and caused quite a stir in Europe and worldwide. In her new book, we learn about Zackheim’s personal family connection to Europe and her love of journalism and history in those doomed pre-war years. And maybe even more exciting, Last Train to Paris allows the reader to enter Zackheim’s unique mind while she is on an unrelenting quest for truth and understanding about that time – and also of herself.””
– Dr. Stefan Elfenbein, former correspondent of the Berliner Zeitung and U.S. correspondent for Lufthansa Magazin and Der Feinschmecker
“Cinematic in scope and rich in history, Zackheim’s riveting new novel explores art, ambition, love and loss, with dazzling sensitivity. Truly, a masterwork from a brilliant writer.”
– Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You, and Is This Tomorrow
“The dangers and confusions of 1930s Paris and Berlin in the years leading up to WWII come to life in this deft historical novel, narrated by an American Jewish woman reporter who rises to each surprising challenge.”
– Alix Kates Shulman, author of Memoir of an Ex-Prom Queen, Drinking the Rain: A Memoir
“Aging journalist Rose Manon skillfully narrates the adventures and intrigue she encounters as a young reporter covering the events leading up to World War II as she navigates between The New York Courier’s Berlin and Paris bureaus. Michele Zackheim has created an intrepid, enduring heroine whose story of loss, love, and ingenuity will grip the reader from beginning to end. A wrenchingly beautiful story.”
–Valerie Hemingway, author of Running with the Bulls: My Life with the Hemingways
“Michele Zackheim’s lucid prose has both rare qualities of modesty and depth. One sits so comfortably inside the story of a young American woman brought into the hellish undertow of nazism in France right before the outbreak of World War II. She could be one own’s recognizable mirror image swept into this still unknown terror. And yet Zackheim provides enough distance to reason and integrate what would be otherwise a painfully unbearable odyssey. I loved this book. I became immersed in its gentle telling, the moving humanity that propelled it forward. A wonderful writer who never betrays the large historical canvas she has chosen to write on.”
–Leora Skolkin-Smith, author, Award-winning Hystera, and Edges
“This utterly fascinating work of art shows what was it like, on the day-to-day human level, to live the scary times on the brink of the Second World War. Michele Zackheim’s riveting novel sees those dreadful days through the eyes of R. B. Manon, an accomplished, fearless war correspondent whose Americanness and Jewishness wane and wax as Nazis reach into the lives of her own family and her own friends. Last Train to Paris makes history personal, from a shadowed 1938 Paris to the terror of Kristallnacht in Berlin, to hard postwar facts of love and loss.”
-Nell Painter, author of The History of White People.