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Arc of Triumph

7 May 2022

Arc of Triumph: a Novel of Courage, Cars and Love, Paul Ehrmann, 2020, ISBN 978-0-578-75476-3, 281 pp.

Arc of Triumph: a Novel of Courage, Cars and Love by Paul Ehrmann

Arc of Triumph is a wonderful fictional tale set in World War II’s German occupied France. It is wonderful for portraying the life of a handful of French citizens sharing their work with Ettore Bugatti—yes, Bugatti of bespoke car making fame.  It is also wonderful for its realism as it is set during wartime. Love for those family-close as well as romance is warmly told. Outstanding is the love and the imperative of auto racing—the passion for racing, for taking risks, to be at the edge of the performance envelope and not safely within its confines. 

Erhmann uses Bugatti cars and Ettore’s persona well, as these were as inseparable as they are impassioned. Ettore’s drive for perfection and performance, in his cars, and France’s unrelenting resistance to occupation. 

Ehrmann grounds his novel in realism using maps, locations and knowledge of many Bugatti car models—at times intimate knowledge. The Bugatti company has always been known for excellent design and crafting (their cars are built, not assembled) and this surprisingly fits into this novel set in German occupied territory.

The author knows his history as well and shares how three Bugatti drivers were active in the French Resistance with two of these three not surviving the war. Arc of Triumph is as real as it is imaginary and readers will vicariously feel the rush of racing, love’s desire and the deeply instinctive need to defend. Finally, readers will come to learn the meaning when Bugatti “…made cars to go, not stop.”

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