War and espionage has often been considered a man’s game. At best, women were seen as secretaries working in the home offices, assistants or nurses. There was little room for women to be in the field as soldiers or spies.
Pam Jenoff’s new novel, The Lost Girls of Paris is set during and directly after World War II. While traveling through New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, Grace Healy finds a suitcase containing the images of a dozen different women. On a whim, she takes the suitcase with her.
The owner of the suitcase is Eleanor Trigg, the leader of a ring of female spies during the war. Among the women she dispatched to Europe, twelve were sent as couriers and radio operators whose job was to aid the resistance. These women never returned home, whether or not they survived is a mystery.
Curiosity gets the best of Grace and she goes on a mission to find out who these women were and if they survived. Within the twelve women, Marie, a single mother captivates Grace. She is determined to find out if Marie lived or died for her country.
Based on the true stories of British women who served King and country, this book is a must read. It is riveting, heart stopping, heartbreaking and inspiring all in the same breath.
Love and war are the two things that cause rational human beings to do irrational things.
In Pam Chenoff’s 2011 book, The Things We Cherished, lawyer Charlotte Gold is trying to shake off the scars of the past. The only child of a mother who survived World War II and the Holocaust because she was on the Kindertransport, the last thing Charlotte needs back in her life is her cheat of an ex-boyfriend, Brian. He pleads with her to taken on the case of Roger Dykmans. Roger Dykmans is a wealthy businessman and the brother of a man who was martyred in the Holocaust. He has been accused of leading the Nazis to his brother and the innocent people his brother tried to save.
Charlotte will be working with Brian’s estranged brother, Jack. While they have professional and potentially romantic chemistry, their job is hampered by Roger’s refusal to prove that he is innocent. The only evidence Roger will provide is in a clock that has not been seen for decades. While Charlotte and Jack try to prove Roger’s innocence, they run into a long-held secret: the mutual love between Roger and Jewish his sister-in-law, Magda.
Like all of Pam Jenoff’s books, I loved it. It’s hard to balance a historical narrative with modern characters who are going through a journey of their own. But she finds a way to do that while keeping the tension and making sure that the details are on point.
Writing a sequel or a prequel to a beloved narrative is akin to walking on a tightrope. The task of the writer is to continue the narrative and character development without going so far out of range that the audience feels like they have lost sight of the original tale. Some writers succeed at this task, others fail miserably.
Pam Jenoff is one of those writers who not only succeeds, but she takes both the narrative and characters in new directions that fit like a glove.
The Diplomat’s Wife is a sequel to Ms. Jenoff’s debut novel, The Kommandant’s Girl. In The Diplomat’s wife, the focus is not Emma Bau, the protagonist from The Kommandant’s Girl, but Marta Nederman, Emma’s best friend from the resistance. World War II is over and Marta has survived only by the grace of G-d. After Marta is rescued from Nazi captivity, she falls in love with Paul, an American serviceman. He is as head over heels in love with her and as she is with him. They quickly get engaged and make plans to marry.
But then Paul is killed and Marta finds herself pregnant. She marries Simon, a British diplomat and life seems to be returning to normal. But that normalcy is threatened by a communist spy within British Intelligence. Marta goes on a dangerous mission to out the spy, who maybe closer to her than she thinks.
Pam Jenoff is my new favorite writer. This book is nothing short of amazing. I love not just the detail of the period, but the danger that Marta knowingly puts herself in. I could not put it down and I seriously need a sequel.
When faced with decisions of life and death, we make choices that in retrospect seem questionable, but in the moment, feel like it is only thing we can do.
In Pam Jenoff’s 2007 novel, The Kommandant’s Girl, 19-year-old Emma Bau is reveling in the glow of being a newlywed. Not even a month after she marries her husband, Jacob, Germany invades Poland. Jacob has no choice but to disappear and Emma joins her parents in the quickly overcrowding Jewish ghetto. Smuggled out of the ghetto and into the home of her husband’s Catholic aunt, Emma is now Anna Lipowski, a Polish orphan.
Adding to the danger, Anna/Emma is hired as an assistant of Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official. While she is working for the Kommandant, Anna/Emma uses her status to help the resistance. But while she is doing this, she is potentially compromising her life, the lives of her loved ones and her marriage vows.
This book left me with wanting more. I felt like I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. My favorite thing about the book was the character of the Kommandant. On one hand, he was responsible for the death of an untold number of innocents. But on the other hand, his affection for Anna/Emma was humanized him and if only temporarily removed the mask of the monster.
Destiny is an odd thing. It can take us to a world of peace, love and tranquility, or it can take us to a world of fear, secrets and danger.
In the new book, The Orphan’s Tale: A Novel, by Pam Jenoff, the destinies of two women collide and forever alter the course of each other’s life. In her late teens, Noa has been impregnated and abandoned by a Nazi soldier. Forced to give up the baby, Noa finds a train full of infants headed toward the concentration camps. Taking one of the infants, she runs away from the rail station which she cleans to put some money in her wallet.
Found by a circus, Noa claims that the baby is her brother and trains to become a trapeze artist. Astrid, the lead performer in the trapeze act, is not initially thrilled with the new recruit. But Astrid has a secret of her own, that if revealed, could mean death, not just for her, but everyone in the circus. Astrid and Noa become friends, but that friendship is tested when the facade that is keeping them alive starts to wear thin. When the danger becomes too apparent, the women must make a choice: try to save each other’s lives or die with the secrets of their true selves.
I really liked this book. What made it memorable was the fear of just Noa and Astrid, but the fear of the world around them. The bounds of their relationship are not only tested by their pasts (and their secrets by extension), but also by the noose that is slowly being wrapped around their collective necks.