Book review: Echoes from Afar by Tamara McKinley

Dark secrets from the past lie dormant beneath the bright lights of Paris in an enthralling cross-generational story from popular author Tamara McKinley.

Dark secrets from the past lie dormant beneath the bright lights of Paris in an enthralling cross-generational story from popular author Tamara McKinley.

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Dark secrets from the past lie dormant beneath the bright lights of Paris in an enthralling cross-generational story from popular author Tamara McKinley.

The vibrant streets and bars of the French capital form the seductive backdrop to McKinley’s tantalising tale of love, loss and war which weaves between the experiences of a mother and her daughter as they find love in the same city, but in two very different time periods.

After a spiteful rumour ruins her nursing career in London in 1936, 23-year-old Annabelle Blake is persuaded by her French mother Camille to travel to Paris to start afresh. Her only regret is that she never said a proper goodbye to young doctor George Ashton who fell in love with her at first sight.

But once in Paris, and at the boarding house of her artistic aunt Aline, Annabelle soon forgets the rancour of her life in London and is charmed by handsome painter Henri-Pascal Baptiste and his boyhood friend and poet Etienne Benoît.

The two young men spend their days eyeing up the girls and drinking with the city’s artists and Bohemians, and soon Annabelle too is swept up in the exotic and exhilarating world of 1930s Paris.

But Henri and Etienne are from the Basque region of France and as ever more young people are drawn into the fight against fascism in Spain, the two men decide it is time for them to head out to the civil war.

For Annabelle, her charmed life in Paris is being overtaken by events and she must wake from the dream and confront the reality of war.

Twenty years later, in 1956, Annabelle’s gifted artist daughter Eugenie falls in love with Paris the moment she sets foot outside the Gare de Lyon to begin a year’s scholarship study at the School of Fine Art in Paris.

Just as they were for her mother, the artistic delights of the city are a dazzling new world to Eugenie but before long, she discovers that the secrets of her family history are hidden in the city’s shadows.

And Eugenie must understand her mother’s past if she is to step forward into her own future…

From the smog and damp of 1930s London and the brutal civil war in Spain to the brave, new post-war world of Paris in the 1950s, McKinley’s sweeping saga is full of drama, danger and romance.

A warm and welcoming read for the dark nights of winter…

(Quercus, paperback, £7.99)