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  • Writer's pictureTerrie

WWII historical fiction: The Lost Girls of Paris

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published 2019, 384 pages

Based on true events, the author says this is a combination of characters and circumstances woven into a single narrative told in two timelines by three main characters, Marie, Eleanor, and Grace. The split time frame technique mostly works I think. It gives a real feeling of the period of the war and the British women who volunteered for very dangerous work helping the resistance in France vs the US shortly after the war.


Creating a 'unit' of female radio operators and agents of subversion is Eleanor's brain child - she develops the program and recruits the women. Marie is the somewhat reluctant recruit that is the focus of the story. However, Grace in 1946 felt more superfluous - I guess the point of her character is to point out how hidden and overlooked the women's contribution was and that somebody had to do something about that. However, many of her actions felt too contrived......why open a random suitcase, why take photos, why and why? Oh, and why the 'romance'? I don't know why authors feel the need to toss in romance just to fill space when it adds nothing to the story.

“But the truth was when it came to grief, each person was an island, alone.”

The characters of Eleanor as the leader and Marie as a reluctant operative were much more fully developed. Eleanor's strength of purpose and feeling of loyalty to her girls felt true. Marie certainly made some questionable and ultimately destructive decisions, but again, I'm sure there's some truth to how women in the field might have acted.

I read Jenoff's previous book The Orphan Tale, also set in Germany though not about the war, and my feeling was similar to this book. It was well written and interesting but felt too lightweight for the topic, just like The Lost Girls of Paris. But, I did enjoy the story and that it shed light on a little known war story. These women, this program, definitely deserves the attention and honor for their bravery and help in the war effort. Overall, a worthwhile read and a good bookclub choice.

Reading challenge: #ModernMrsDarcy #3: recommended by someone I trust; #BooklistQueen20 #21: about a war; #Bookworm20 #20: set during WWII. Follow my progress in the Challenge tab at the top of the page.

photos of Paris by Terrie Purkey

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