Paris, Rue des Martyrs tells the story of four main characters leading intersecting lives in Paris. Mira is an artist who leaves Italy when she finds her fiancé sleeping with her business partner. Rafael comes to Paris to find a mysterious woman who was mentioned in his dying father’s last words. Andre is an aging theater star, recovering from a serious accident and struggling to keep his career going. And Cecile is an unhappy housewife and a mother and stepmother to three teenagers.
The description of the book:
Four strangers in Paris. Each one is on a quest: to uncover a family secret, to grasp a new chance at love, to repair mistakes of the past. Four stories entwine, four quests become one, as their paths cross amid the beauty, squalor, animation and desolation of a street in Paris, the Rue des Martyrs.
makes it sound a little cheesy, but this book opens with compelling characters I wanted to know more about. And behind it all, there is Paris. I loved the setting, from train stations to sidewalk cafes to small art galleries.
At the beginning of the book I was very drawn into the lives of these characters, and sympathetic to what each were going through. The characters aren’t one-dimensional and they aren’t entirely likeable. Cecile is self-centered and Andre is mean and bitter. Their lives are complicated by their families. Mira struggles to develop a relationship with her womanizing artist brother, Andre is trying to learn to be a father, and Cecile struggles to develop a maternal bond with her children. I also liked how the characters intersected but not so much that it felt contrived.
But as the book went on, I felt the dialogue became a little wooden. I was frustrated that the romantic relationships weren’t developed more. Some of the characters just fall in love without much story or character development. On the other hand, the complicated brother-sister and parent-child relationships were much more nuanced. This is a book where the relationships that don’t work are a whole lot more interesting than the ones that do.
A good example is Cecile’s relationship with her daughter Viv and her stepdaughter, Laurel. Viv is a very independent 14-year old, and Cecile feels alienated by this daughter who seems not to need her. At the same time she’s jealous and almost fearful of her stepdaughter Laurel – who responds by being mean and vindictive, creating a vicious cycle in their household. Laurel’s anger and mistrust towards Cecile — the woman who broke up her parents’ marriage — is completely understandable. Cecile is a pretty horrible parent and wife, but she’s sympathetic too.
Unfortunately, these complex relationships weren’t always matched with dialogue that felt real, and some of the issues just seemed to be resolved too easily. I think with more detail and character development, this would be an excellent book.
Overall I enjoyed Cimino’s debut novel and found it a quick read with compelling characters.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.