I love WWII stories and I love Pam Jenoff's writing (her novel, The Orphan's Tale received a 5 star-Top Dish review from me). Can't wait to read this one!
The Lost Girls of Paris
by Pam Jenoff
Publisher: Park Row
Release Date: January 29, 2019
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.
The Lost Girls of Paris
“Women? I don’t understand.”
The idea had come to her weeks earlier as she watched one of the girls in the radio room decode a message that had come through from a field agent in France with a swift and sure hand. Her talents were wasted, Eleanor thought. The girl should be transmitting from the field. The idea had been so foreign that it had taken time to crystalize in Eleanor’s own mind. She had not meant to bring it up now, or maybe ever, but it had come out nonetheless, a half-formed thing.
“Yes.” Eleanor had heard stories of women agents, rogue operatives working on their own in the east, carrying messages and helping POWs to escape. Such things had happened in the First World War as well, probably to a greater extent than most people imagined. But to create a formal program to actually train and deploy women was something altogether different.
“But what would they ?” the Director asked.
“The same work as the men,” Eleanor replied, suddenly annoyed at having to explain what should have been obvious. “Courier messages. Transmit by radio. Arm the partisans, blow up bridges.” Women had risen up to take on all sorts of roles on the home front, not just nursing and local guard. They manned anti-aircraft guns and flew planes. Why was the notion that they could do this too so hard to understand?
“A women’s sector?” Michaels interjected, barely containing his skepticism.
Ignoring him, Eleanor turned to face the Director squarely. “Think about it, sir,” she said, gaining steam as the idea firmed in her mind. “Young men are scarce in France, but women are everywhere. They blend in on the street and in the shops and cafés.”
“Do you want to go?” the Director asked. Eleanor considered the question. Yes, a part of her screamed. To see what was going on over there. To feel the rush that came from truly making a difference. Of course, she could not. The very nature of who she was made it impossible to blend in.
“I’m of better use here. As for the other women who work here already…” She hesitated, considering the wireless radio operators who labored tirelessly for SOE. On some level they were perfect: skilled, knowledgeable, wholly committed to the cause. But the same assets that made them ideal also rendered them useless for the field. They were simply too entrenched to train as operatives, and they had seen and knew too much to be deployed. “They won’t do either. The women would need to be freshly recruited.”
“But where would we find them?” the Director asked, seeming to warm to the idea.
“The same places we do the men.” It was true they didn’t have the corps of officers from which to recruit. “From the WACs or the FANYs, the universities and trade schools, or in the factories or on the street.” There was not a single resume that made an ideal agent, no special degree. It was more of a sense that one could do the work. “The same types of people—smart, adaptable, proficient in French,” she added.
“They would have to be trained,” Michaels pointed out, making it sound like an insurmountable obstacle.
“Just like the men,” Eleanor countered. “No one is born knowing how to do this.”
“And then?” the Director asked.
“And then we deploy them.”
“Sir,” Michaels interjected. “The Geneva Convention expressly prohibits women combatants.” The men around the table nodded their heads, seeming to seize on the point.
“The convention prohibits a lot of things,” Eleanor shot back. She knew all of the dark corners of SOE, the ways in which the agency and others cut corners and skirted the law in the desperation of war. “We can make them part of the FANYs as a cover.”
“We’d be risking the lives of wives, daughters and mothers,” Michaels pointed out.
“I don’t like it,” said another one of the other uniformed men from the far end of the table. Nervousness tugged at Eleanor’s stomach. The Director was not the most strong-willed of leaders. If the others all lined up behind Michaels, he might back away from the idea.
“Do you like losing a half-dozen men every fortnight to the Germans?” Eleanor shot back, scarcely believing her own nerve.
“We’ll try it,” the Director said with unusual decisiveness, foreclosing any further debate. He turned to Eleanor. “Set up an office at Norgeby House and let me know what you need.”
“Me?” she asked, surprised.
“You thought of it, Trigg. And you’re going to run the bloody thing.” Recalling the casualties they had discussed just minutes earlier, Eleanor cringed at the Director’s choice of words.
“Sir,” Michaels interjected. “I hardly think that Ms. Trigg is qualified. Meaning no offense,” he added, tilting his head in her direction. The men looked at her dubiously.
“None taken.” Eleanor had long ago hardened herself to the dismissiveness of the men around her.
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