I first fell in love with Pam Jenoff’s writing almost two years ago, when I read and reviewed The Orphan’s Tale. So today I am absolutely over the moon to be offering a 5* review for The Lost Girls of Paris. An intricate braid of three riveting stories, Jenoff transports you back to WWII in Paris, London, and New York and to a time of immeasurable sacrifice, incalculable strength, and determination in the face of overwhelming odds. This book is an absolute beauty and a must read for lovers of historical and WWII fiction.
Title: The Lost Girls of Paris
Author: Pam Jenoff
Publisher: Park Row
Expected Publication Date: January 29, 2019
Genre: WWII Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Themes: WWII, SOE, Romance, the French Resistance
Features: Book Club reading guide and questions.
My Rating: 5/ 5
From the author of the runaway bestseller The Orphan’s Talecomes a remarkable story of friendship and courage centered around three women and a ring of female spies during World War II.
Grace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.
Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a ring of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.
Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war, and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.
I’m biased, I know, but I love Jenoff’s writing. So I simply couldn’t resist when The Lost Girls of Paris are out, bought a copy on publication day, and then made myself wait until we went on holidays to read it. I’m seriously mad that I didn’t cave and let myself read it sooner, but it was absolutely worth the wait, and one of the best rides I’ve ever been on!
Let’s start with my favourite thing apparent in Jenoff’s writing – the obvious presence of research! It’s clear that no detail is haphazard or half-assed, and that no stone has been left unturned. Everything from the locales to the clothing breathes authenticity and and make the characters and their lives feel ever-so real. But what I appreciated more than the reliance on fact to craft the tales of Marie, Eleanor, and Grace was that all of the characters and events were entirely fictional. As a lover of WWII fiction I have read enough fictional versions of Himmler to last a lifetime, so having new and exciting characters in this setting was a breath of fresh air. It gave the freedom for an immersive read without inspiring an irrational need to fact check, and for that I am eternally grateful.
The split storylines of our ladies were beautiful complements to one another. I think in some cases that if the book had been about just one or the others of the women, that the sadness of their stories would have been overwhelming. However, the balance of Grace rebuilding her life after the loss of her husband served as the perfect complement to the hopelessness of Marie & Eleanor’s positions.
Of all the girls, I found Eleanor’s lot the most precarious and nerve wracking to read. Sure, she was our of the action and running things from the SOE, as it was clear early on that her superiors were setting her up to take the fall if her F Section agents failed and the credit if they succeeded. And because the women of F Section were never given official ranks or any sort of recognition, they too became easy to sweep under the rug when things got difficult. I can only imagine how painfully aware of this situation Eleanor was, which is why she was so invested in the recruiting, training deployment, and monitoring of her agents.
Garce was hard to read too, but in the best possible way. She bucked against the expectations of both her family and society in order to find herself doling her husband’s death, and in that had to grapple with an almost overwhelming amount of grief and guilt. Finding Eleanor’s suitcase was the perfect act of deflection to find closure for both the victim on the car crash and herself. I found her romance with Mark both sweet and timely, and adored how Mark pursued Grace through kindness and assistance rather than machismo and pressure. It was nice to see his empathy and understanding of Grace’s grief and other needs, as well as his respect and appreciation for her choice in having a career.
Marie was an absolute breath of fresh air. As much as I pitied her back story with such a users husband who ran off her fortune after their daughter was born I liked her grit, tenacity, and determination to maintain her home, even with Tess living safely in the country. I loved how she stuck it out against the odds when everyone expected her to fail in her training, and even when she expected failure from herself. I found her easy to relate to and exciting to read – especially after she was dropped for her mission in France.
The interplay between the three plots was perfectly balanced and made for an absolutely outstanding read. The push and pull between hope and grief, loss and love, war and recovery made for a dynamic and enjoyable experience. Like I said, I know I’m biased, being a Jenoff groupie and all, but I would recommend this baby to anyone. It’s the perfect blend of history and fiction, and it hits you in the heartstrings over and over again. It’s absolute perfection.
I purchased and reviewed this title independently, all opinions are my own.