Publisher Nan A. Talese/Knopf, 2019
A timeless story of love and loss is transformed when a bereaved pianist discovers a mysterious letter among her late lover’s possessions, launching her headlong into a decades-old search for a child who vanished in the turbulence of wartime Paris.
In the summer of 1989, while all of Paris is poised to celebrate the bicentennial of the French Revolution, Sylvie mourns the loss of her lover, Julien, and is unable to find solace in the music that has always been her refuge. But when she accidentally dislodges an envelope hidden in Julien’s desk, she finds an enigmatic note from a stranger and feels compelled to meet this woman who might hold the key to Julien’s past, and who can reveal the story of the child, Julien’s niece who disappeared during the dark days of the occupation. Julien had secretly devoted years to tracking the disappearance of the girl—his only unaccounted-for relative in the wake of the Holocaust—now Sylvie picks up where he left off.
With only the scant clue of an unnumbered street, Sylvie sets out on her quest for knowledge, unaware that she is watched over by Julien’s ghost, who still loves her powerfully, but is doomed to silent observation in the afterlife. Sylvie’s journey leads her deep into the secrets of Julien’s past and she finally learns the devastating reason for Julien’s reticence about a tragedy both personal and historic, shedding new light on the dark days of Nazi-held Paris, and the man Sylvie loved.
Mamta Chaudhry’s gorgeously written and profoundly moving debut novel explores the grief of mourning a partner, the protective conspiracies of family secrets, and the undeniable power of memory. Weaving a narrative rich in vivid imagery and historical resonance, Haunting Paris matches emotional intensity with lyrical storytelling to bring a long-buried secret to light, capturing a relationship, a family, and a city in breathtaking new ways.
“This is a powerful and moving first novel. It’s a melancholy love song to the city of Paris, past and present, and a novel of haunting (and haunted) memories. Reading it, I thought of Patrick Modiano and W. G. Seybald, master novelists similarly haunted by the horrors of WW II and the occupation of France and by deliberately forgotten memories of complicity and collaboration. It’s audaciously, imaginatively constructed, with a heartbreaking, profoundly adult love story at its center. Haunting Paris is one of those novels that make you larger for having read it.” — Russell Banks, author of Affliction
“Haunting Paris is not only a love letter to the Paris of birdcage elevators and wrought iron peacocks but also a submersion into one of that city’s darkest periods, a visceral account of the quotidian labor of living with absence, and a reminder of the myriad ways in which we encounter voices from beyond the grave. Mamta Chaudhry’s novel is wonderfully moving on the way we follow the threads that connect us to others in order to honor the life we’ve been spared to live, by admitting into it all of the unexpected possibilities of happiness.” — Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron and The World to Come
“Through pianist Sylvie and the flâneur ghost of her beloved Julien, “Haunting Paris” connects the living with our past, wresting secrets from “cul-de-sacs of silence.” This extraordinary debut truly is haunting. Give yourself over to its moving wisdom.” — Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Race for Paris
“It’s always a cause for celebration when a new voice emerges, joining our literary conversation. Mamta Chaudry has written a novel so fresh, so musical and so moving that booksellers everywhere will be counting the days until we can offer it to our customers. Haunting Paris is the story of Sylvie, her lover, Julien, and the secrets that are uncovered about the dark period of Paris and the Holocaust. This first novel brings to mind the best of Kristen Hannah and Tatiana de Rosnay, resonating long after the final page is turned. Congratulations to Nan Talese for once again taking chances, and with Haunting Paris, she’s found something extraordinary.” — Mitchell Kaplan, Books and Books
“HAUNTING PARIS is a riveting tale of Paris during the dark days of the occupation and the tragedy of the silence that surrounded that time. Family secrets, a spectral narrator, and a love that transcends death combine to create an exquisite tale that will haunt readers like a beloved rhapsody. This has New York Times best seller written all over it. Mamta Chaudhry’s debut novel is an elegant work of incomparable fiction. Book clubs will swoon.” — Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books