But Anders is ready to explore his other secret: his sexuality. Anders soon falls for Jean, and captures Jean’s beauty with his camera, selling the photos by the Seine. A wealthy American socialite, David, sees the work and presents Anders with a scandalous new venture.
With David’s movie camera, they set up a secret film studio, capturing incriminating reels of the rich and powerful committing all manner of compromising acts. As Paris falls to Hitler and the occupation takes hold, senior Nazis commandeer David’s mansion as their personal brothel. Anders and David begin secretly filming the Nazis’ trysts, scattering the evidence across Paris. Anders’s old flame, Eilas, returns as an SS officer. Jean hatches a plot with the Resistance to assassinate Eilas’s superior, the head of the SS in Paris, where blackmail and betrayal, love and survival are all part of the answer to the question, Why in Paris?
Why in Paris? is the second book I’ve read by Harry F. Rey, and I’m stunned by the beauty of his writing. I’m honestly a bit overwhelmed, but will do my best to express what I can, if only to get the word out to as many folks as possible as to this title! Hopefully I can impart how Why in Paris? is truly extraordinary, and why it touched me so deeply. My favorite aspect of reading historical fiction is when the author paints a vivid and realistic picture, and creates an atmosphere so true to life that it feels like I’m actually there. I want to feel the cobblestones beneath my feet, see the reflection of the lights on the river, and hear the laughter of the tourists in the street. Everyone who has the chance to experience Paris, understands how magnificent she is. Calling deep into the heart of a very specific breed, those with the title Parisiens, wear it proudly. With a history so diverse, I think it would be hard to pinpoint any singular era as “unique”, but surely those who withstood the after-effects of World War I are in a class by themselves. So when Anders arrives in Montmartre in 1936, sharing a room above a gay bar, surrounded by whores and artists and political activists…, well, this is simply the norm in Paris. Why in Paris? Literally, it could only be in Paris. In Why in Paris?, Harry F. Rey explores every aspect of the human experience. Lust, greed, friendship, fate, love… and freedom. And at its most basic form, the human right of freedom from persecution, of course. Beyond that, the complexities of all varieties of artistic expression are questioned. What does it mean to be free to pursue, enjoy, react, and reject all manner of art? As a photography student, Anders examines the purpose of art, and the singular nature of photography, as he attempts to carve himself a place in the world. While the events which lead up to the Nazi occupation unfold, Anders is forced to do what he must to survive. With his aspirations and ideals challenged again and again, Anders navigates the forces which cause his exhilarating spiral to its climactic end. It’s an incredible journey, and I’d love to imagine even a fraction of Anders’ story could have actually happened. The amount of research that went into Why in Paris?, the skill of crafting this amazing tale, and the depth to which Anders and his companions explore their world, leaves me breathless. Harry F. Rey, you have moved me to tears, and my head is still spinning. Bravo!