While “Crossing On the Paris” is certainly not great literature, it is an entertaining and charming read. It flows, is easy to read and won’t send you scurrying to look up any big words.
What I liked about it is the glimpse into life aboard a huge ocean liner during the Golden Age of trans-Atlantic travel. There are no security checks and pat downs; no scrunched up seating and no airline peanuts in lieu of food.
In her notes, the author states that she kept most of the details about the ship accurate. She learned of this historic ship, which made its maiden voyage in 1921, when she and her husband translated a catalog about the French line of ocean-going ships for an exhibition at a museum in Valencia, Spain, where they live. “I became fascinated by the history and sociology, the mechanics and the aesthetics of these ships, which not only boasted cutting-edge design and technology but were veritable microcosms of modern society,” she writes.
However, the book is fiction and Gynther weaves facts about the ship around the lives of three very different women aboard the Paris. Despite the tragedy of the Titanic, there was still a race to build ocean liners larger and more luxurious, and people still flocked to be on board. In the book, elderly Vera Sinclair is reluctantly moving back to Manhattan after thirty wonderful years in Paris. Her passage is amidst the opulence of the first class section, which is described as a floating palace. In second class is Constance Stone, reveling in short-lived freedom before returning to her family. And below the waterline in steerage is Julie Vernet of Le Havre, France. She’s testing her wings in her first job. For all three, the journey across the Atlantic is life changing. They learn important lessons of the heart and their lives intersect in a surprising way.
Pam Jenoff, author of “The Kommandant’s Girl,” says “Crossing on the Paris” has, “rich detail and elegant prose, Gynther creates a resonant and memorable tale.”
Gynther was reared in Missouri and Alabama and lived 18 months in France after college. She returned home to earn an M.A. in French literature at the University of Alabama. After her marriage two decades ago, she moved to her husband’s hometown, Valencia, Spain. She is now working on her second novel.
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