Mamta Chaudhry, a native of Calcutta and now a resident of Coral Gables, will launch her debut novel, Haunting Paris (release on June 18), with a book signing event at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., on June 20 at 8 p.m.
Haunting Paris touches against the emotions with a saint’s passion and the phantom’s subtlety. It is a novel about cruelty and courage, and with its satisfying resolution we are shown what Chaudhry believes will always triumph — love.
The book is set in Paris and its central character is Sylvie, a piano teacher, who although shy has the heart of a lion. The other characters revolve around her like the orchestra around the Steinway in a piano concerto.
Chaudhry grew up in Calcutta and where she studied English and always excelled in all of her classes. From a very young age, she enjoyed writing and wrote short stories and pieces for various newspapers and magazines in Calcutta. Soon, she decided to study journalism and came to the United States where she studied at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
She wrote for many magazines and other publications when she moved to Miami. She was studying for her PhD at University of Miami when she had an epiphany.
“I decided that I didn’t want to write about books; I wanted to write books,” she said, laughing in her carefree and contagious manner.
Although she has written other novels, this is the first one that has been published. She said that she stays away from sentimentality because it “dilutes the emotional impact.”
The novel tells several tales at the same time. They are interwoven like the notes in a musical piece created for several instruments.
The cruelty in the story is perpetrated by the Nazis during WWII and upon and by members of a small family circle. Love is an antidote against that cruelty. The tale is partly told from the point of view of a ghost. The implication is that love conquers even the power of death.
For Chaudhry, research is an intricate part of the writing process. She said that she works with her characters while she is performing the research. Anyone who reads the novel will understand that she spent many hours learning about the time period and the reality of the Jewish experience. She read many books on the subject and spent time with numerous people who helped her.
“With me, it’s more that I get an idea and hear the voices, and I think about the characters, and I ask myself, ‘who are these people?’” she said.
She did not set out to write a novel about the Holocaust. A visit to the Deportation Memorial in Paris affected her so deeply that she began to do research into the Nazi occupation. She felt that it was time for this story to be told. She met a family while there who had been “swept up” by the Nazis and she stayed with them and they helped her with the details of the story.
She has not written a strict historical novel. The novel defies genres. Chaudhry said that her novel is literary fiction, but it is so much more than that. She found an agent who fell in love with her book and decided to pass it on to a highly regarded editor Nan Talese. Chaudhry describes Talese as “a dream to work with.” She believes that it is the language that made her book a reality because it is not necessarily what is written but how it is written that engages people.
For more information about Chaudhry and to RSVP (required) for her event, visit her website at mamtachaudhry.com.