The Paris Key
by Juliet Blackwell
Once again, I was enchanted by a title and drawn to read another book set in France. I loved it. Blackwell created a sweet, moving, complex story and kept me captivated from the very first page to the last. I especially loved her heroine. She was strong, but had to work through challenges to realize that. In the end she was able to find her way, and I liked how she wasn’t caught up in romance. It was refreshing to read a book about a woman’s journey that was not contingent on falling in love (even though I do love a good romance). I related to Genevieve as well, especially in the following quote about readers: “Genevieve polished off the last of the cheese and ham just as she finished her novel. She would have to go grocery shopping tomorrow. Not to mention book shopping. Like most readers, she felt nervous without a stack of novels at her disposal. In fact, she sometimes wondered: What did people do if they couldn’t read? On the other hand, maybe without those hours lost to novels she would have become a championship knitter, or a rock climber.” In sum, I was enchanted and naturally, now I want to move to France!
Genevieve is a soon to be divorced young woman who has lost her way. She decides to move to Paris and take over her late uncle’s locksmith shop in order to gain perspective. She is overwhelmed with the move to a new country, but feels at home at the same time. When her mother died, Genevieve was 14 and her father sent her to Paris to live with her aunt and uncle (her mother’s brother) and cousin for a time. Genevieve was extremely fond of her uncle who taught her how to pick locks and understand all that goes into being a locksmith. She couldn’t stay with them, which brought a lot of bitterness and regret that she didn’t return until her uncle had passed away and her aunt was suffering from Alzheimer’s. However, she is on good terms with her cousin, Catharine, who has welcomed her to live at her uncle’s shop/apartment. As Genevieve settles into the rhythm of Paris, buying fresh groceries, being befriended by neighbors, and ignoring her old life, she begins to stir up the past. Genevieve has always known that after her mother married and had her brother, she visited Paris for a while before returning home and having Genevieve. It was always referred to as her “last hurrah.” Afterwards, she was often despondent and later died of cancer. Genevieve as always felt abandoned by her mother and puzzled at the same time. Now, most everyone who knew her has passed away: her dad, her uncle, and her aunt simply can’t remember. Spoilers: One customer and friend, Philippe, knew her a little and gives Genevieve an old photograph from when her mother was in Paris. Beside her sits a handsome man. Genevieve knows nothing about him, but she starts suspecting that perhaps her mother wasn’t who she thought she was. While she’s repairing some locks at Philippe’s house, Genevieve uncovers a mysterious locked door deep in the basement. She explores with one of her new neighbors/friends, Killian. She recognizes the lock as one of her uncle’s specialties, and realizes that the key for the lock is the one she wears around her neck (it was her mothers). upon entering she finds herself in the catacombs and there is a secret room containing an old bed, clothes, and a newspaper from when her mother was in Paris. Before long, Genevieve is able to put things together: her mother was feeling trapped in her marriage and life and ran to Paris where she had an affair and got pregnant with Genevieve. The man she was in love with was a revolutionary and they ultimately could not be together, so she returned home. As Genevieve processes the truth she is ready to leave Paris and the bad memories behind (and she is having the worst time getting the paperwork processed to live and work in France). But before she can go her new friends rally around her and convince her to stay (and also pressure the inspector to sign all the paperwork). Finally, Genevieve accepts her new life and realizes that she is strong enough to face the truth and live her life without the ghost of her mother shadowing her. She wants to live in Paris and she wants to be a locksmith, so she is going to do it (or at least do everything in her power not to give up).
Summing it up: I loved this story. I love stories where the hero/heroine grows and evolves. It is beautiful, moving, and inspiring. I highly recommend it!
All the best, Abbey