Books with Sommer: ‘Goodnight From Paris’ by Jane Healey


Sommer Bianchi '23, Head of Social Media

Welcome back to books with Sommer! I’m Sommer and if you didn’t notice, I read a lot. So when I realized that one of my classmates and friend’s mom (shoutout to MJ) was an author of historical fiction, I knew it was a must-read. I had already bought her first book, The Beantown Girls, but Goodnight From Paris had caught my eye since it was published so recently. While I usually keep my reviews on Goodreads (if you like my reviews, please do add me in the link at the end of this article), I thought that this one deserved a spotlight, specifically for the artistry of Jane Healey. 

One of my favorite things about this book is that it gets right to the point. I don’t need to go on a whole five-chapter journey into the nuances of one particular event 20 years ago; I start where I need to be and the plot just takes off. As someone who has been reading classics recently, this is a relief. I wanted to read a book about an American actress doing radio shows in Paris, and I immediately got that. But I was also very pleased with how that wasn’t the only storyline. While Drue, the main character, is introduced to the resistance through radio, she takes on a cause of her own, and we see her finding ways to serve. I think Drue as a character is just perfect. She is fiery and passionate while at the same time being kind and very driven, kinda like the ideal feminist. You love her through and through, even when she does very stupid things, like risking her life for a chance to escape prison. What makes this book so addicting is that the plot line is very easy to follow while never getting boring; you go through her life as it happens, and with the addition of letters to and from certain characters, you feel like you’re there. Reading this at night was the worst decision ever because I kept staying up late to just read one more chapter. I need to know if she’s found by the Nazis, or if her husband, Jacques, is able to visit again. It has the drive of an action movie while still being as poignant as a romance, and I think that’s one of the things that make this book great. 

Character-wise, this book is filled with amazing ones. From the ones you can’t help but hate to the overall lovable ones to the ones that turn you around on the inside, I just don’t know how Healey does it. I think I have every character that I was supposed to love I did. Even the side characters have vivid personalities and descriptions that all of them feel insanely real, probably because most of them are. I felt myself laugh when they laughed and cry and when they cried; the bond you feel with each character is insane, but that could also just be me being sensitive. Nadine, Drue’s housekeeper and then best friend, is just the best, and Ondie, the dog, was necessary for my mental health. I just want to live in the house in Barbizon with everyone in the summer and just have a wonderful time. 

I will say that taking AP European History has helped me understand this book. I will fully embarrass myself right now and say that the only thing I knew about D-Day was that it happened on a beach and was not Dunkirk. Please pause now to laugh. But since taking this class (Thank you Mr. Bisacrdi), I can recognize how much research went into this book. While Healey has written multiple books in the period of WWII, I think her dedicated research specifically on this one is astounding. I have never heard of Drue Leyton, and according to the back of the book, finding anything in great detail about her life was a real struggle. My kind of historical fiction is where the characters and story are fiction but the events carrying the plot are very much real, such as The Book Theif by Markus Zusak or All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (a fav). I think that’s why I found this book interesting yet also slightly confusing. I found myself getting a bit stuck between what was fictional and what was true. I think it is essential to read the back of the book, which debriefs what fiction is and what is not. It truly helped me to appreciate the work it takes to take bits and pieces of someone’s life from limited sources and turn them into a 400-page novel (arguably a masterpiece but I digress). I also think the idea of combining multiple real-life people into one character; makes it so much easier to keep track of people in your head. For example, the character of Dominic, who is a resistance fighter, is a combination of multiple people who helped Drue during her time in Barbizon, France. Overall, it’s a book that when you read it, you can feel how much time and effort was put into it. 

Finishing this book made me feel like there was a gaping hole in my chest, a sign that it was amazing to any reader. I need more. If you were looking for a generic, Paris WWII novel, this is not the place. Goodnight From Paris is an amazing blend of romance, comedy, drama, and tragedy, leaving almost everyone satisfied. It’s full of important messages and themes, one of them being the overall value of humanity and sticking together through hard times. I think this has definitely opened new doors for me in terms of reading more historical fiction, and The Beantown Girls will be moving up on my TBR list. As always, if you would like to stay updated on my reading journey and see more reviews that I write, feel free to add/follow me on Goodreads. Until next time!