Friday, February 15, 2019

Book Review - The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Book Synopsis

1946, Manhattan
One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey 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 network 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.

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My Review
The Lost Girls of Paris begins in New York City in 1946.  Grace Healey is on her way to work, and while passing through Grand Central Station she discovers an abandoned suitcase.  On an impulse she looks inside and finds a folder with photos of women -- just their first names written on the back.  She is determined to find out more about this mysterious folder.  It leads her to the story of Eleanor Trigg, a spymistress during World War II London.  Eleanor recruited young women to work across the continent during World War II.  Although they were ostensibly radio operators, they often did much more dangerous work in secret.   One of those women was Marie Roux.  Her story is also featured here.

This is just a remarkable book.  There are so many layers of storytelling, from 1946 New York to 1944 London and France.  Most impressively, though, Pam Jenoff tells the story from the perspective of three different women:  Grace Healey (New York), Eleanor Trigg (London), and Marie Roux (London and France).

I love historical fiction set in the 1940's, especially during the years of World War II.  I had never heard of Vera Atkins (the inspiration for Eleanor Trigg) or Special Operations Executive (SOE) and their work before this book.  

The characters in The Lost Girls of Paris are beautifully drawn.  I especially found recent widow Grace and young single mother Marie to be very sympathetic, and I read their stories with great interest.  Eleanor was more of a cipher, rarely seen outside of work;  I never was quite as engaged in her story for that reason, although this in no way impacted my interest in this book.

The historical details are subtle but perfect.  The author also does a fine job of sense of place across a variety of different locations and settings.

There was so much that intrigued me about this novel.  What prompted Grace to take the photos and investigate the story?  Why did Marie leave her young daughter impulsively to join SOE?  Who was Eleanor and was she to be trusted?  

I read this book in about 48 hours because I was compelled to know the answers to these questions and to find out what happened to these women.   The Lost Girls of Paris is sure to be one of my favorite reads of the year, and I cannot recommend it highly enough for other fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone who loves 1940's history.

Author Bio

Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.


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