Belated Happy New Year everyone, and welcome to my first book review of 2022 in which I’m telling you about a cracker of a novel.
The Postmistress of Paris is hard hitting wartime fiction. It is the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Meg Waite Clayton which poignantly depicts the plight of German artists and intellectuals who used their art and knowledge to defy the murderous brutality of the Nazis. Skilfully weaving fictitious characters with real life people, settings and situations, Clayton’s narrative is tense, powerful and truly unforgettable. Especially as it tells the story of people forced into becoming stateless refugees and hunted down even after they have fled their home country. This resonates with many of the horrific situations happening throughout the world today, hence intensifying the poignancy of the novel. This is further enhanced as one of the main characters in the novel is Luki, a motherless toddler when the story begins. Often told from Luki’s innocent child’s point of view, her heart wrenching story must reflect the stories of many real life child refugees.
Set in France over a three year period, the novel opens in 1938 and ends in early 1941. The main protagonist is Naneé, a young American heiress who chooses to remain in her adopted country of France when it is suddenly occupied by the Nazis. As well as being war time fiction, The Postmistress of Paris is a powerful love story, especially as Naneé’s love for France is evident throughout the narrative.
Naneé joins the French resistance, becoming the ‘Postmistress’ as she uses her wealth and American passport to deliver vital information to those in hiding from the Nazis and Vichy authorities. She especially helps those artists involved in the Surrealist movement who are ardent critics of Hitler and his brutal regime.
One of these artists is Edouard Moss, a German Jewish photographer. He is also the beloved father of Luki. Edouard is haunted by the horrific treatment by the Nazis targeted towards his family before they left Germany. As a reader it really shocked and disgusted me. It also completely broke my heart. Edouard is also haunted by the death of his late wife, but his devotion to Luki is so moving.
As soon as Naneé meets Edouard and Luki, there is an unexplainable connection between her and the father and daughter. It is truly beautiful; yet it leads Naneé to dangerous actions to save them. But in saving Edouard and Luki, will she be able to save herself?
Through Edouard’s artistic photography there is an air of mystery forever present. I found this element of the plot truly fascinating, especially as it informed me more about the Surrealist movement. Yet I was not prepared for the heart breaking revelation when the mystery is revealed at the end of the novel. Plot twists like this is definitely why Meg Waite Clayton is a bestselling novelist.
I have got to be honest with you – when I started reading The Postmistress of Paris I did struggle with it initially. At first I felt the timeline moved too swiftly giving me a sense that the story was a tad disjointed. However I am pleased to say this did not last and I soon became consumed with the fates of Naneé, Edouard and Luki. So much so, I doubt I will ever forget them.
The skilful interweaving of fiction and non-fiction to create this novel is brilliant. As I mention above, there are a lot of real life characters within the story. For example, many of the Surrealist artists and also Varian Fry who was an American journalist who went to France to try and save many of the wartime refugees from the brutality of the Nazis. Naneé is actually very closely based on a real life wartime heroine, Mary Jane Gold. Like Naneé, Mary Jane was a wealthy American heiress who found herself living in France when the Germans came. And like Naneé, Mary Jane joined the resistance and worked with Varian Fry to save many intellectuals and artists from Nazi persecution. The Postmistress of Paris is so well researched and detailed, creating an unforgettable story.
The Postmistress of Paris was released on 30 November 2021 so is available now for you all to read and be consumed by. Thank you once again to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour of this powerful historic fiction. I will definitely be reading more from Meg Waite Clayton.
To view the reviews from my fellow book bloggers also on the blog tour of this brilliant read, please see below.