I was sent this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. It was published it on the 23rd of November 2016.
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Set against the construction of the Eiffel Tower, this novel charts the relationship between a young Scottish widow and a French engineer who, despite constraints of class and wealth, fall in love.
In February 1887, Caitriona Wallace and Émile Nouguier meet in a hot air balloon, floating high above Paris, France–a moment of pure possibility. But back on firm ground, their vastly different social strata become clear. Cait is a widow who because of her precarious financial situation is forced to chaperone two wealthy Scottish charges. Émile is expected to take on the bourgeois stability of his family’s business and choose a suitable wife. As the Eiffel Tower rises, a marvel of steel and air and light, the subject of extreme controversy and a symbol of the future, Cait and Émile must decide what their love is worth.
Seamlessly weaving historical detail and vivid invention, Beatrice Colin evokes the revolutionary time in which Cait and Émile live–one of corsets and secret trysts, duels and Bohemian independence, strict tradition and Impressionist experimentation. To Capture What We Cannot Keep, stylish, provocative, and shimmering, raises probing questions about a woman’s place in that world, the overarching reach of class distinctions, and the sacrifices love requires of us all.
To say I wasn’t reluctant to read this book would be an understatement. I have never been big on reading Historical Fiction novels but after reading The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway I thought nothing could be as good as that, but in all honesty, this book came very close.
I was hesitant to read another novel set in the 1800s as I am quite unfarmiliar with the jargon used and the technology referenced, though Colin did not make this novel difficult for readers to understand and I didn’t have to google a single word that apeard on the page as it was either explained explicitly or in context. Despite the amount of time it took me to finish this novel I enjoyed every word I read off the page.
As this book is set in Paris with French speaking characters, there was some French dialogue which was on most occasions translated for the reader’s understanding, though a few phrases were strategiclly left untranslated as they weren’t explicitly explained to the other characters in the novel, thus the non-French speaking reader will feel as clueless as the other non-French speaking characters in the book. I see this as a great startegy to make the reader better relate to the characters in the novel; though this is only affective if used on very rare occations as the reader must still know what is happening in the novel, otherwise there wil be a loss of interest in the story.
I went into this book expecting to learn about the construction of the Eifel Tower with romance sprinkled in, and I really underestimated this book. I not only got involved in the drama of multiple peoples lives, but I got a full history lesson and some about the construction of the Eifel Tower, and I am not ashamed to say that that was probably the most entertaining way to learn about history. I learnt more about the construction of Eifel’s Tower than I did about pretty much any historical topic in High school.
Despite Caitriona’s mature age, I felt as though I could realate to her and her view of the people around her, which by having her strong values expressed so deeply made her more of a stong female role model. As I am writing this I am reminded of the review I wrote for The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Calaway, which also featured a strong female lead.
I felt secondhand frustration when Cait had to deal with Alice and worry, when Jamie went missing for days. Cait’s kind and caring heart beat to the same song as mine, as with many other women who genuinely care for their friends. Cait, as pure as she was did things that surprised me, all in the name of love and though some of it most of it sweet, some actions seemed desparate and out of character for a strong-willed and strong-minded woman.
I am glad I was sent both of the afforementioned books as I see a reoccuring pattern in books set in the 1800s. Regardless of location, the female protagonist of these novels are uaually strong willed, diciplined, and selfless, but somehow end up in a situation that is troublesome and requires secretkeeping; a situation they wouldn’t be in if it wasn’t for a certain love interest. This is merily an observation, and an intriguing one at that as it has not gotten me more interested in reading more historical fiction novels just for the female role-model protagonist.
For those of you who haven’t read this book yet or are conflicted about picking it up, I would highly recomend it, especially if you are soemone who loves to learn random historical facts, or just curious to read an unfarmiliar genre.
If you have read this book and are looking for a recomendation for another book much like this to read, I would recomend The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Calaway and you can find my spoiler-free review of the book by clicking on the link above.
★ Rating ★
I gave this book a ★★★★★ (5/5 star) rating on Goodreads. I loved this book as it has not only opened me up to reading historical fiction novels, but taught me a great deal about a significant point in history. I would love to read more Beatrice Colin’s novels and experience what else she has to offer.
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