The year is 1886 and Caitriona Wallace, a young Scottish widow, has come to Paris as the chaperone of the young and naïve Alice and Jamie. While on a hot air balloon ride, Cait meets Émile Nouguier, one of the engineers working on the Eiffel Tower, and an instant connection sparks between them. To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin is a patient love story crossing social classes and countries.
In contrast to Cait’s calm and composed demeanor, Alice and Jamie are both slightly obnoxious and unaware, although they aren’t malicious about it. During 1886, women don’t have many rights and acting as a chaperone is the best option Cait can find to secure an income.
An ongoing focus of the story is the construction of the Eiffel Tower and how controversial it was at the time. I had no idea how negatively people felt towards the tower, especially because it’s become a world-famous landmark. This was one of my favorite aspects of the book.
Here are a few quotes that I marked:
“Possession in the beat of the blood, but not in the heart.”
“…The city had been constructed for one class at the expense of another.”
“And he wanted to capture what he couldn’t keep, the fleeting, the transient.”
“And the memory of her spun through him like a wheel on an axle, around and around without any sign of slowing.”
“She looked at him directly when he spoke, as if seeking him out, as if trying to read everything he had ever been and ever would be.”