66. ‘Charlotte Gray’ by Sebastian Faulks

The third and final volume in the French trilogy, this is wonderful – and fine to read as a stand alone novel, although if you have read ‘Birdsong’ and ‘The Girl at the Lion D’Or’ you will pick up references to both in this.

Set during the Second World War, Charlotte is a Scottish girl who moves to blacked out and bombed London, where she meets and falls in love with a battle weary fighter pilot, Peter Gregory. Initially working as a doctors receptionist, she ends up being recruited by the British security services thanks to her perfect French, and parachuted into Occupied France to assist the Resistance there. However, she has her own agenda – Peter has not returned from a flight into France, and she is determined to find and rescue him.

With dyed hair and a new identity, Charlotte refuses to return to England after her mission is completed, instead taking a job as housekeeper to an aging and eccentric artist, and pursuing her quest for Peter. I have read reviews which take umbrage at this, saying that it detracts from the heroism and bravery of the genuine female agents who risked, and gave, their lives in the real world – but, this is a novel, and although as always it is accurate in its detail and setting, it is not a history book, but fiction. Important to remember.

Alongside this, we have a secondary story around two little boys of Jewish heritage whose parents have been rounded up for deportation, and whom some of the people of Lavaurette are trying to save. A truly moving sub-text which in the end affects everyone and everything, although it is the only part of the book I felt got a little lost somehow, more in terms of Charlotte’s involvement at the very end than the actual story.

The characters we meet throughout this book jump off the  pages at you, they are so alive – one ends up completely immersed in the life of the small French town where most of the story takes place. Although it is a wordy book, it’s a good one – and delivers some interesting insights into the French peoples perception of Petain and Vichy France. I recommend it!

And as always, this copy is looking for a new home now – so if you would like it, please get in touch either here or through the Facebook or Instagram pages and I will send it to you with much love from Mum and I.