Haunt­ing Paris: A Novel

January 1, 2013

Haunt­ing Paris is an evoca­tive por­trait of love and loss — explor­ing the grief of mourn­ing a part­ner, the pro­tec­tive con­spir­a­cies of fam­i­ly secrets, and the unde­ni­able pow­er of mem­o­ry. Split between the sum­mer of 1989 and the ter­rors of World War II, it fol­lows griev­ing pianist Sylvie after she dis­cov­ers the ter­ri­ble secrets that her late lover Julien kept – ones that haunt him still beyond the grave. 

When Sylvie acci­dent­ly finds an enve­lope in a secret draw­er in Julien’s desk, she sets off on a path to unrav­el the mys­tery Julien was des­per­ate to solve before his death – whether or not his niece had sur­vived the Holo­caust. Unbe­knownst to Sylvie, her beloved Julien watch­es her efforts from beyond the grave – his love for her strong enough to pull him back as a specter a ghost of his past self. As Sylvie finds clues regard­ing the fate of his fam­i­ly, they find them­selves falling even fur­ther in love, despite their distance. 

An unfor­get­table, explo­sive exam­i­na­tion of fam­i­ly, love and grief by a new voice in fic­tion, this nov­el is not to be missed.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Mam­ta Chaudhry-Fryer

  1. The haunt­ing” of Haunt­ing Paris, of course, refers to the ghost of Julien, who par­tial­ly nar­rates the nov­el, but spec­tral pres­ences of the past hov­er over much of the novel’s action. Who/​what else is haunt­ing the char­ac­ters in the nov­el? Who else is haunted?

  2. The present-day” por­tions of the nov­el are set in 1989, two hun­dred years after the French Rev­o­lu­tion and fifty years after the Sec­ond World War. How is Paris’ vibrant and some­times vio­lent his­to­ry present for the char­ac­ters in 1989? How do they con­front his­to­ry as they move around the city?

  3. What struck you about the novel’s depic­tion of grief? What rang true to your own expe­ri­ences of grief in your life?

  4. How did you under­stand the role of music in the nov­el? How has music been a tool for human con­nec­tion in your own life?

  5. Much of the nov­el takes place on the Ile Saint-Louis in the Seine, where many famous writ­ers and artists once lived. Why do you think the author chose to put Sylvie and Julien’s apart­ment on this island?

  6. Why do you think Sylvie choos­es to search for the truth about Julien’s sis­ter? How do you see Sylvie change as she delves fur­ther into her quest for knowledge?

  7. In Haunt­ing Paris, the lines between life and death can be hazy. For exam­ple, do you think Sylvie is tru­ly liv­ing” at the begin­ning of the nov­el? Is Julien real­ly dead? How do these con­cepts shift over the course of the book?

  8. The round-up of Jews in Paris is one of the most shock­ing scenes in the nov­el. Did you dis­cov­er oth­er peri­ods of anti­semitism in this sto­ry? Do you think that the promise to Nev­er For­get” is being kept?

  9. Julien admires Sylvie’s courage, while she sees her­self as timid and cow­er­ing. What act of courage on her part first attract­ed Julien’s atten­tion? Are there oth­er peo­ple in the book who speak up when it would have been eas­i­er to remain silent? Have you ever been in a sit­u­a­tion where you were the lone voice in the room to speak up? How did that feel?

  10. Since Julien is a psy­chi­a­trist and a stu­dent of Freud — whose book, The Inter­pre­ta­tion of Dreams, was ground­break­ing in the field — he obvi­ous­ly hears a lot of patients talk­ing about their dreams, includ­ing those that recur. What dreams in the book struck you as par­tic­u­lar­ly mean­ing­ful in terms of the light they shed both on the char­ac­ters and on the story?