The Lost Girls of Paris Review

May 7, 2020

Paris and the Eiffel Tower often bring to mind peace and romance, but it brought more terror than anything during World War II. Pexels photo: Wojtek Strzelec

 

New York City, 1946. Postwar mysteries are still unravelling, and that’s exactly what Grace Healey stumbles upon on her way to work one morning, sending her into an adventure greater than she ever expected. Following Grace’s explorations, author Pam Jenoff does a marvelous job of keeping the reader on their toes throughout the story of “The Lost Girls of Paris,” an enthralling work of historical fiction, “inspired by true stories of bravery and resilience” as noted on the front cover of the book.

 

The tales of Eleanor Trigg, a Special Operations Executive agent, and Marie Roux, sent into the midst of the World War II, are woven together with Grace’s story. Eleanor, responsible for the creation, recruitment, and organization of the women’s branch of secret agents, is painted as tough and unsentimental, but shown to worry about “the girls” just the same. There are suspicious transmissions from the radios of each girl dropped into France, not least of all Marie’s, and from some, there are no transmissions at all. Throughout her training, Marie had improved drastically, but Eleanor still worried about her more than many of the other girls. Despite following instructions and going above and beyond her particular duties, Marie is captured by the Germans and subjected to their abuse.

 

Eleanor cannot contact any of the girls, and finds herself released from the SOE. However, she cannot reconcile herself with the feeling that something avoidable went wrong, so she begins an investigation of her own. This eventually leads her to New York, where the end of her story flows into the beginning of Grace’s. The final pieces of the puzzle come from Marie. At long last, the truth is uncovered and shared with the world, thanks to the courage and determination of three women who overcame incredible odds.

 

Jenoff does great honor to the true story of Vera Atkins and her agents, off of whom this story is based. Her painting with words brings every bit of the story to life in the mind of the reader, allowing them to feel Eleanor’s concern and irritation, Marie’s panic and pain, and Grace’s confusion and determination as surely as though they were shadowing each character. Turning the final page and closing the book will leave the reader in a state of emotional consideration, longing for more. This New York Times bestselling novel is worth the read for any bookworm.

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