Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Gace 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 discovered The Lost Girls of Paris fairly recently, at a book club held at my local library. Within the first couple chapters, I was swept up instantly.
The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff was inspired by true events during World War II, describing the pro-active role women played in order to take down Nazi Germany. We begin the story following Grace in post-war New York, a young war widow starting her life over in Hells Kitchen. While commuting to work, Grace discovers a suitcase with the photos of 12 women, and she goes on a search to discover the truth behind their origin. We are then taken back to 1944, following Eleanor (a secretary in charge of the women’s secret agent unit in London), and Marie (a recruit placed into Occupied France to conduct radio transmissions for the British). Throughout the book, we venture back and forth in time as Grace slowly discovers the truth behind these mysterious women’s origins, and during the period of the war, when Eleanor and Marie are faced with difficult choices in the extreme hardships.
I found myself emotionally invested in each woman’s struggle, as they all found themselves having to make choices that would effect the lives of those around them. Marie and Eleanor had extremely difficult upbringings, which molded them later in life to hold great strength in the face of difficult circumstances. While Grace’s experiences in the story were those of a curious investigator (her timeline occurs roughly two years after the war ended), she is also faced with a choice that could effect the outcome of her life.
The Lost Girls of Paris also takes place in a time where a woman’s role in the war was unheard of. Women were expected to wait for their men to return from the war, working just to simply bide their time. The thought of women leading and working in military roles was considered ridiculous and threatening to many. The act of women living and working independently was also highly discouraged. Grace, Eleanor and Marie were all living their lives in the face of extreme opposition (and this book described many harrowing details of wartime Europe), and they all made it a point to persevere within the struggles.
I was thoroughly moved by The Lost Girls of Paris, as it was an intense novel describing women being resilient during the hardships of war. If you are someone who enjoys historical fiction while learning about World War II, then this book is for you!
Rating: 4/5 Stars