Born into money in the Mid-West, Nanee finds her true home in Paris. So when war breaks out and the German tanks enter the city, rather than leaving, she stays and joins the Resistance. She helps get famous artists targeted by the Nazi’s out of the country and also carries messages, being dubbed The Postmistress. But a man and his daughter capture her heart, and she risks everything to help them get to safety.
Meg Waite Clayton is the author of several popular historical fiction books, some set in the WW2 time period as well. This book is based on a real person, Mary Jayne Gold, who was a Chicago heiress, and who really did work with Varian Fry, a journalist, to smuggle artists and intellectuals out of France. (Edouard, the man who she can’t forget, is a fiction though) The book has two threads that run through it, with us mostly following Nanee but also following Edouard where is he separated from his daughter and various things happen to him.
I really like a story set in Paris, in any time period, and I love a wealthy, plucky vintage-era heiress too, so I was drawn to this one. I think it strikes just the right tone. There is danger around the characters and it’s not shy about showing them, but the tone of the book is fairly jaunty overall, which feels true to the way that people tried to stay cheerful and hopeful in the face of war and the odds against them in the time period. It also makes the darkness and sadness more stark in contrast. I liked the way that the book had us meeting Surrealist artists in the course of Nanee’s adventures, and the book even opens with with Nanee flying her plane with her poodle Dagobert beside her.
My criticisms are only small ones. Nanee’s ability to fly a plane is never utilised in the story, so opening with it feels like a foreshadowing that’s never paid off. Also, while this is a war story, we get less of Nanee spying and more of her relationship with Edouard, so it’s a war love story to some extent, more than it’s a spy story or thriller. That said, it has plenty of tension, and the split between the characters serves to give us the reality of war for different people.
On the whole, I liked this book. I really liked Nanee, she felt fresh and interesting. Edouard was well written too, and had his own rounded storyline. This was a cut above a lot of the WW2 era books that are coming out recently. I think it felt original, and I really liked the Surrealist gatherings, the artistic side characters, and also the friendships between the female characters. This book tugs on the heartstrings. And it has a dog in it.
Read It If: I’m sure that fans of the author will like her latest book. It will also please fans of the WW2 era and historical fiction readers. I liked the plucky heroine and the French setting. A good read.
Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for the ARC of this book for review.