In 1950’s Paris, Surrealist paintings have come to life and roam the streets with Nazis and something darker. The story follows Thibaut, a young resistance fighter, as he navigates the treacherous Parisian streets.
Mieville’s writing style is interesting but I enjoyed the mysterious, ‘surreal’ feeling that it brought me as I read along. The timeline shifts around through flashbacks and present tense action, as well as Parson’s tale which is a separate timeline from 10 years prior to the main story. His way of forming the characters make them both sympathetic and mysterious through contradicting actions and moments of vulnerability. Characters such as Sam the photographer remain an enigma until they reveal their true intentions within this French art dystopia.
The story building truly drew me in and held onto me until I had finished the whole book in one sitting (which is a rather regular reading technique for me). Embracing the theme wholly within the novella, both in plot subject and writing style, Mieville managed to create a story which is as confusing as it is enthralling.
The duality of timelines does not hinder the storytelling as I was wary of. Instead, the secondary plot line is kept short and separate and is used only to explain the context of the main timeline. The reader is shown the pieces of the puzzles as they slowly solve the mystery of these artistic monstrosities left roaming a Nazi Paris.
As an art lover (or appreciator is a more appropriate term as I’m not as knowledgeable as I’d like to be) I enjoyed the cultural references and felt sparks of glee whenever there was a piece artist’s name I recognised.
On a whole, I really loved immersing in Mieville’s Surrealist world and would recommend The Last Days of New Paris to those who enjoy a tale with a quirky style and tone. However, for those who prefer a more traditional ‘structured’ form, I’d advise against it as it can become rather confusing. But, for me, I love an odd story and I am looking forward to reading more of his other works if they are just as bizarre as this novella.