It’s 1943, and Marie has just joined a group of covert female British intelligence officers being secretly deployed to France. They are under the authority of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a government agency created by Winston Churchill “to set Europe ablaze through sabotage and subversion.” Their goal is to prepare France for the coming Allied invasion and undercut the Germans whenever possible. The mission is incredibly dangerous, and almost no one has made it home alive. But Marie is broke, fluent in French, and desperate to create a better world for herself and her daughter. So to France she goes.
Fast forward three years, and Grace has just found an abandoned brief case at Grand Central Station. Curiosity compels her to open it, and inside she finds an envelope full of pictures—all black and white photos of stern-faced women, probably military. She can’t quite put her finger on why she cares so much, but something inside needs to find the owner of the suitcase so she can better understand who these women are.
The story unfolds in chapters narrated by alternating characters and is told over a several year timespan. We hear from Marie and Grace, of course, but also from Eleanor, the woman in charge of the female operatives within SOE. We watch Marie as she is recruited, trained, and eventually deployed, but it’s Grace who brings the story full circle in the end.
I’m not a diehard historical fiction fan but The Lost Girls of Paris still managed to hold my attention. The story is well told and boasts a surprisingly creative plot. It takes a while for the book to get going, but once it does, it hums along nicely. I can honestly say that I didn’t see the ending coming, which makes me appreciate it that much more. If you liked author Pam Jenoff’s first book, The Orphan’s Tale, or Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, you will love this one.