Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
Release Date: July 26, 2022
Helene Belanger lives in occupied Lyon, France, and longs to join the Resistance, but her husband Joseph, who fought in the Great War is adamantly opposed, which leads to a fight and Joesph storming out. It has been two days and he has not returned, Helene is worried, she cannot go to the police as they are in with the Gestapo, and even Joesph’s best friend Etienne is missing. She is debating her options when there is a knock at her door and a woman looking for a man named Pierre, she is frantic, she is Jewish and needs new ID papers and Helene soon realizes that her husband is the man she is looking for and gives the woman her own papers. She then sets out to find Etienne for answers, but he finds her when she is stopped by the Nazi patrol asking for her papers. Etienne gives the man papers, proclaiming her to be Elaine Rousseau. Etienne takes her back to his flat and Helene learns the awful truth, her husband is part of the Resistance and has been captured. At that moment, Helene is no more and Elaine is born, Elaine who will stop at nothing to save her husband and annihilate the Nazis. She begins to work for the Resistance by delivering and later printing anti-Nazi tracts. It is how she meets a young Jewish woman named Sarah and her son Noah, Sarah’s husband Lewis is in America, she stayed behind to tend to her sick mother, thinking that she would be safe. But now she is being hunted and has no way to get a visa or even a flight to the States. Despite being told to leave it be by her superiors, she can’t ignore Sarah’s plight, with so much loss in her life, she needs to help them and sends a coded message in the Resistance’s publication “Combat”.
Ava Harper is a librarian working in the Rare Book Room at the Library of Congress when she is asked to join the war effort by working for the Office of Strategic Services, gathering publications that may contain covert information on the Nazis. She would have to relocate to Lisbon, Portugal, a trip that she is not keen on making, but when she is reminded that her brother Daniel and many other soldiers fighting in the war need this intel, there is no way she can decline and makes the move to Lisbon. She is trying to settle in but soon learns that spies abound in Lisbon, and feels somewhat adrift. But luckily, an experienced British agent intervenes and takes her in under his wing and soon she is making her own contacts with other agents and the many refugees seeking asylum in neutral Portugal. She falls into a routine of collecting papers and magazines each day from around the world, and it is in the French paper “Combat” that she finds a coded message begging for help in extricating a young Jewish woman and her child from occupied Lyon and reuniting them with her husband in America. And even though her job is to simply collect data, there is no way Ava can ignore this cry for help. And so begins a joint collaboration to save Sarah and Noah from under the noses of the Nazis.
When I first read the blurb for this book, I was sure I wouldn’t like a story with two protagonists’ POVs, but couldn’t have been more wrong! The imagery and the attention to historic detail are outstanding and the writing is practically flawless. I was sucked in from the first page and could barely read the words fast enough to satisfy my need to know what would happen next. Be warned and have your tissues at the ready, because war is ugly and cruel, and this book doesn’t shy away from the horrors, nor does it sugarcoat the egregious acts perpetrated by the Nazis. But even with death, destruction, and malice running rampant, there are moments of joy, comradery, and even love, that save this book from becoming a dark, depressing read. I loved this story and can’t recommend this powerful and emotional story highly enough.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that I requested and was provided to me by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.*