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Let me start this review by saying that not recently I finally took my dream trip to Paris, so when you combine that with me being an unabashed political junkie you can see how this book would be like catnip for me. But it was much more than that. So. Much. More.
This book is a love story first and foremost. Some will tell you the love story is between Jonny and Naya but I would say the real love story is between the author and Paris. Everything from the way Thomas Bartlett illustrates the scenes of the city to his choice to use Paris in the first place screams of a deep relationship that makes everything in this story just…more.
Jonny is understandably upset over the action of the U.S. government, namely bombing Paris, no matter how strategic. In fact I thought the ‘targeted hits’ was a great jab in the ribs at international politics. To commit to an act such as bombing a major city is atrocious in itself but a city like Paris, it is truly unforgivable, but then to cherry pick the when and where of the matter is downright pathological. And Jonny’s internal monologue leaves no doubts as to his thoughts on the matter. It is witty and acerbic and brutally honest.
But it is the way Americans Bombing Paris is presented to the reader that pulls you in and often makes you wish you hadn’t even stepped into the dark world of geopolitics. Make no mistake, this isn’t really a feel good kind of story. It is gritty, and raw—particularly the accounts of the bombings—and it is real to its core. It is easy to write off Jonny and Naya and even the Stonethrowers—which many will based on their own political beliefs—because Jonny doesn’t really try to defend himself or his actions. He explains, but either thinks he’s done nothing wrong or feels no need to defend his actions which I think adds an air of credibility to his storytelling. But there’s no need for him to defend, he’s pretty clear about what he thinks and so his actions make a kind of sense. At least to me.
The thing I loved most about Americans Bombing Paris was Bartlett’s unique voice. I highlighted several phrases and passages as I read that struck me as funny, sarcastic, witty, tragic or true (Case in point: Never before in the history of risk has an army so well armed been so easy to put at risk). If not for his voice this could have easily been another thriller with lots of filler suspense. But there was no filler here, just substance.
If you’re a strong reader looking for a unique story with an amazing new voice, Americans Bombing Paris is for you. But don’t expect a neat little bow at the end, expect what you get throughout; the hardcore, unvarnished truth with a healthy helping of reality.