Saturday, March 2, 2019

Review: The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

The Lost Girls of Paris
by Pam Jenoff
Release Date: January 29th 2019
2019 Park Row
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0778308614
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.5 / 5 Stars

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.

My Thoughts
The Lost Girls of Paris definitely had a lot of potential: the story of young women during WWII, recruited to spy on the Germans in France simply because they (the powers that be) thought the Germans would not pay as much attention to them and their actions.  Also loosely based on true events, this should have been great. Unfortunately, the novel did not live up to its potential and I although I enjoyed aspects of it, overall I was somewhat disappointed in this one.

First of all, I really preferred the parts about Marie and Eleanor and felt the author should have focused on their story.  To be honest, I'm really not sure why she included the alternating story lines as there was really no purpose to Grace's; her story just got in the way and I felt it was irrelevant.  If it was just to show how a woman could be independent after the war years if she worked hard, in my opinion, it failed.  I found Grace to be rather annoying as a character, more concerned about her reasons why she slept with her dead husband's best friend.  And this is not really a spoiler as it pretty much happens on the second page of the book, another reason why I should have stopped reading at that point..  I guess I just really wished the author would have come up with a better reason than 'compuslsion' for Grace wanting to pursue the matter of discovering the identity of the girls when she discovers Eleanor's suitcase New York. It kind of meandered and was somewhat unnecessary.

And while I said I liked the chapters about Marie and Eleanor better, that is not really saying much considering I disliked the chapters about Grace.  While I enjoyed what happened in Occupied-France, I just couldn't for the life of me accept that they (the powers that be) would put someone, who had so many issues during training, in such a key position.  And then Marie's behaviour when she actually landed in France? As the leader, I would have slapped her.  She pretty much put everyone in danger by her indignity.  Hello?  It's war?  What part during training did you miss that this was dangerous and everyone's life depended on you and your training?  I just didn't buy it.  Oh, I know that all countries used all types of people for their missions.  I teach History.  But to specifically train someone for a job, and then have them act as if they've been put out because they had to land in the middle of the night and then sleep somewhere other than in a nice comfortable bed blows me away.  Bothered me to no end.  I began to wish that we could follow more of the others' stories as they seemed so much more interesting.  And to throw in a love story on top of this?  You've got to be kidding me!! Why does she need to fall in love to make her story interesting? I was actually somewhat insulted by this turn of events.

The Lost Girls of Paris is not a book I would recommend to anyone who knows a lot about WWII. As a history teacher, there were so many things I just could not swallow in this one.  The way Eleanor recruits Marie is not that unusual as they would have been searching for those women who spoke fluent French, but to send someone in the field who is inept? Somewhere else maybe, but not in France.  And while I know the author has an extensive background in history, I just felt she missed the mark on this one.  Perhaps those who don't know anything about WWII might enjoy this, but for those of us who do, I should never have continued past the first chapter.  This was definitely an opportunity wasted.