The Lost Girls of Paris, by Pam Jenoff
Pam Jenoff is a prolific author who writes one book each year, and The Lost Girls of Paris is her twelfth. Besides writing daily, Jenoff teaches law and brings up three children. She’s a very hard-working woman, and hard-working women are her major characters in this novel set during and after the World War II.
The novel proceeds at a fast clip, a page-turner pace. The story starts in Manhattan in 1946 when the young American war widow Grace discovers an abandoned suitcase in Grand Central Station. Opening it, she finds an envelope of photographs of a dozen young women. Being shocked, she starts a paper chase to find who they are, and what happened to them. Then she soonly finds our that those photographs are of young British women that were recruited and sent behind enemy lines in the final months of the World War II to serve as radio operators and clandestine messengers supporting the efforts of a British spy network. Being intrigued, Grace determines to discover more about them.
The wartime chapters of this novel are recounted by young British spy deployed to France Marie, and her boss, Eleanor Trigg, who accept the dangerous assignment of Recruitment and Logistics for the Special Operations Executive. It’s refreshing to see these women involved with work, women in action, women taking on dangerous assignments, as all three major charactors do in different ways to different degrees. However, the story really belongs to Eleanor Trigg, a unique individual. There is no stereotype here, no happy ending, no convenient romance. She is truly interesting with her total involvement in her work. She is driven by the concern for “her girls,” and by the pressure of having survived, and living on in spite of the fate of her family in Poland.
The author Pam Jenoff, a lawyer and former diplomat, is really good at writing about the thrill of the chase for the right research document, the right piece of paper, and the challenges of circumventing red-tape.