‘Determined to escape her old life, misfit and student geologist Hallie packs up her life in England and heads to Paris. She falls in with the eclectic expat community as a bartender at the notorious Millie’s, located next to the Moulin Rouge. Here she meets Gabriela, a bartender who guides her through this strange nocturnal world, and begins to find a new family.
‘But Millie’s is not all that it seems: a bird warns Hallie to get her feathers in order, a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be a chronometrist, and Gabriela is inexplicably unable to leave Paris. Then Hallie discovers a time portal located in the keg room. Over the next nine months, irate customers will be the least of her concerns, as she navigates time-faring through the city’s turbulent past and future, falling in love, and coming to terms with her own precarious sense of self.’
Paris Adrift is a book with an interesting concept behind its core story, with a unique time travel hook. Instead of time machines and sci-fi tech, it tells a story that involves strange anomalies and those gifted individuals that can travel through them to different points in time.
Opening on a future where the world has been ravaged by a devastating nuclear war, we discover that there is a group of time travellers that are determined to change events. Whilst this isn’t the most original starting premise for a time travel story, the fact that only certain people can travel through certain anomalies does add an interesting wrinkle to events.
The future time travellers have to find someone in modern day Paris who will be able to access an anomaly that will allow them to travel back to alter events to prevent this war. This makes the story a lot more interesting. It’s not just the story of someone going back to change history, its someone going back to change history without knowing that they’re a part of a bigger mission. It also means that the reader doesn’t just get dumped in the middle of a high concept time travel story, instead, we get introduced into this world slowly as Hallie discovers her anomaly and learns to travel through time.
Whilst this approach is good, and allows the reader to learn the rules of the universe in a simple and steady pace, it does mean that we are following a character that is still living their regular life. The time travel feels very much a secondary aspect of the story. Instead of travelling through time and and setting events right, we have to put up with our main character hanging out with their friends, drinking heavily, and working in a bar. I have nothing against character development and telling interpersonal stories, but it should be possible to be able to do this whilst telling the main story too. During Paris Adrift there are large segments of the book that feel like they’re from another book completely, one that feels out of place with the main story.
Fortunately, when the book does use its time travel it manages to be engaging and interesting, with the last section of the book easily being the best, dealing with the repercussions of Hallie’s previous journeys and altering the future to a better outcome. It’s just a shame more of the book couldn’t have been like this.
Paris Adrift is a book that has two interconnecting narratives, one a personal story of self discovery, the other tells the story of stopping a nuclear apocalypse. Whilst there are times that these work well together the stark contrast in tones and narratives might not be the best for everyone. With sections of the dialogue also being written in French it can also mean that some of the book can feel closed off to some readers who don’t speak the language.
Overall, Paris Adrift is an entertaining read with a unique time travel mechanic, though it may not be to everyone’s tastes.