Although World War II has long been a favorite subject in both literature and history, a new interest seems to have developed in the multiple roles played by women during the war. In The Lost Girls of Paris (Park Row Books, 2019), Pam Jenoff examines from three different fictional perspectives a little-known, real-life British secret service called the Special Operations Executive (SEO). Originally developed to send male saboteurs and radio operators behind enemy lines in France, the SEO had to change its focus when unexpectedly high casualties revealed that men had become so scarce in rural France that its agents were instantly identifiable as people who did not fit in. The director then chose to recruit and send women instead.
The novel opens from the perspective of Grace Healey, detoured into Grand Central Station on her way to work. Grace discovers a suitcase sitting by itself under a bench and, while she’s trying to find out where it belongs, extracts a set of photographs. When she goes to replace them, the suitcase is gone. Grace’s curiosity is piqued, especially when she realizes that a connection exists between the photographs and Eleanor Trigg, whose death in a car crash caused Grace’s detour in the first place.
Eleanor, the second point-of-view character, turns out to have been the head of the female agents at SEO, a job for which she recruits the third character we meet, Marie Roux—a single mother forced to choose between spending time with her daughter and financially supporting her child while serving her country. As we move ever closer, from Grace’s distance in time and place to Eleanor’s founding role to Marie’s experiences on the ground, the danger and the potential for betrayal confronting the SEO agents become increasingly clear.
C. P. Lesley is the author of eight novels, including Legends of the Five Directions (The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, The Swan Princess, The Vermilion Bird, and The Shattered Drum), a historical fiction series set in 1530s Russia, during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Find out more about her at http://www.cplesley.com.
C. P. Lesley is the author of ten novels, including Legends of the Five Directions, a historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Her next book, Song of the Sisters, will appear in January 2021.