Published by Flatiron Books on November 29th 2016
Set against the construction of the Eiffel Tower, this novel charts the relationship between a young Scottish widow and a French engineer who, despite constraints of class and wealth, fall in love.
In February 1887, Caitriona Wallace and Émile Nouguier meet in a hot air balloon, floating high above Paris, France--a moment of pure possibility. But back on firm ground, their vastly different social strata become clear. Cait is a widow who because of her precarious financial situation is forced to chaperone two wealthy Scottish charges. Émile is expected to take on the bourgeois stability of his family's business and choose a suitable wife. As the Eiffel Tower rises, a marvel of steel and air and light, the subject of extreme controversy and a symbol of the future, Cait and Émile must decide what their love is worth.
Seamlessly weaving historical detail and vivid invention, Beatrice Colin evokes the revolutionary time in which Cait and Émile live--one of corsets and secret trysts, duels and Bohemian independence, strict tradition and Impressionist experimentation. To Capture What We Cannot Keep, stylish, provocative, and shimmering, raises probing questions about a woman's place in that world, the overarching reach of class distinctions, and the sacrifices love requires of us all.
I was immediately drawn to the cover of To Capture What We Cannot Keep. Paris is one of my favorite cities. I’m also fascinated by the construction of the Eiffel Tower. In fact, I love reading about all of the World’s Fairs . Needless to say, I was really looking forward to this book.
Sadly, there was much about it that did not work for me. First, in fairness, I must admit that I’m not sure I was the intended audience for this book. At the time I requested it, the genre was listed as General Fiction. I feel that it would have been more appropriately categorized as Women’s Fiction and/or Historical Romance. Based on the blurb, I was prepared for a significant romantic element to the story but I thought there would be more details about Paris, the construction of the tower, etc. I didn’t feel there was much to this book beyond the romances of the various characters. It was just tooooo romance-y for me. (Amazon now lists this book as General Fiction, British & Irish Fiction, and Historical Romance.)
I also had some difficulty with the characters. Most were one-dimensional and predictable in their actions. This coupled with the recurrent issues of romance between classes made for slow pacing. The character I appreciated the most was Gabrielle, Émile’s mistress early on in the book. Though I can’t say I liked her, I found her to be oddly fascinating and well-drawn.
There were some elements of mystery woven into the story that worked very well. I think the story of Cait’s marriage and early widowhood could have been expanded upon.
Overall, this wasn’t a bad book; it just wasn’t for me. I would recommend it to someone who enjoys a true romance novel.
Many thanks to Flatiron Books for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.