Whenever somebody tells me they love historical fiction, I immediately ask if they’ve read Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb’s Last Christmas in Paris or Meet Me in Monaco. I absolutely treasure these novels, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the duo’s latest collaboration, Three Words for Goodbye. After devouring this gem, I have three words of my own to share: Read this book.
Set in 1937 on the cusp of the second world war, Three Words for Goodbye tells the story of estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine Summers, who are tasked with carrying out their ailing grandmother Violet’s unfinished business. Modeling the Nelly Bly-inspired journey she took with her own sister many years ago, Violet sends her granddaughters from their native New York on a months-long adventure to Paris, Venice, and Vienna with one mission: deliver goodbye letters to three of the most important people in her life. For Clara, the trip is in part an obligation and in part one last chance to foster her passion for art before her marriage to the wealthy Charles Hancock. For budding journalist Madeleine, the voyage is a chance to report firsthand on the growing dangers across Europe. Peppered with long-held secrets, intriguing new acquaintances, and the complex bonds of sisterhood, Three Words for Goodbye is a gorgeously rendered novel you can’t afford to miss.
I will never tire of a sibling story, a tale about strong women bucking societal norms, or a beautifully depicted glimpse into history, and Three Words for Goodbye is all of these rolled into one. Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb never cease to create characters you will root for and who inspire you, positioning them in worlds you just want to live in for a while. The Sommers sisters had me at hello, and as the novel went on, I only grew to love them more. The dutiful, reserved Clara and independent spitfire Madeleine are equally compelling narrators, starkly different at first glance, revealing thread by thread the ties that bind them as sisters and as women. I loved following their journey across Europe, through key moments in history, and in and out of each other’s good graces. I was completely invested in their paths, both as individuals and as sisters, and couldn’t wait to find out where their life-altering adventure would lead them.
The best trips are the ones that make us explore new worlds, see things in a different light, discover untapped sides of ourselves, and create memories we’ll remember always. The best novels do the same, and Three Words for Goodbye checks all of those boxes. Pack up your bookmark, travel to your favorite reading nook, and escape into this wonderful story you won’t soon forget.