The French Gift is the second novel by Australian author Kirsty Manning. It is an inspirational story based on true events of WWII that will clutch at your heart.
The story is told over two time periods;1940 – 1945 WWII and the present day.
Josephine Murant, a journalist who is imprisoned in France for partaking in the resistance. She meets her cellmate, former maid Margot Bisset from The Riviera, who has been charged with a murder she didn’t commit. Both women are transferred to a German labour camp for five years and were made to work in horrific conditions at the Phrix rayon factory.
Both women formed a close bond sharing their lives, fears, hope and secrets as they fought for their survival. In the camp, Josephine records accounts of her time into a copy of a book Le Fantome de L’Opera whilst Margot escapes in murder mystery novels provided to her by a guard. In June 1945 Josephine was liberated by the Third United States Army, where she followed her passion in writing crime fiction until her death.
You could feel Josephine’s and Margot’s bravery shine, both women enduring so much with the courage needed to face the most devastating times. A balance is created between the intimate moments of their friendship and how they sit within the wider fields of battle during a horror of war with a focus on things that make us human.
Present day, widowed Evie Black and her teenage son Hugo live above her boutique bookshop, La Maison. Evie receives a letter from Clement Tazi, a museum curator in regard to the legacy of her husband’s great aunt Josephine Murrant and invites her to help with an exhibition about the great crime fiction author. Evie grabs at the opportunity, with her son they travel to Josephine’s house which they have now inherited on the Cote d’Azur.
Whilst putting together the exhibition Evie and Clement find a lot more than they bargained for. Searching through manuscripts they uncover the horror of war and the stories of how women were treated with a general disregard for human life. As secrets unfold, Evie and Clement realise they must treat Josephine’s legacy with respect and honour.
The French Gift is Inspired by a true story of iconic French Resistance fighter, Agnes Humbert, from the fall of Paris until her arrest and interrogation by the Gestapo in April 1941. Humbert kept a written diary, apart from a few scribbled notes, she resumed writing her diary after her liberation from prison four years later in April 1945.
Kirsty Manning has done a remarkable job portraying Agnes, it is so well-written, so moving, so shocking, so educating, so thought-provoking with excellency, compassion and dignity towards the characters. It’s just not another story about WWII, it is a story of courage, duty, friendship, hope and the heavy weight people carried. It kept me engaged, fascinated and eager to turn the pages. It’s a wonderful, enjoyable novel with courage and survival at its heart.
Thank you Beauty & Lace and Allen & Unwin AU for the opportunity to read and review.
Copy courtesy of publisher: Allen & Unwin
A selection of our members are reading The French Gift. Read their reviews below, or add your own!
My love of books started at a very young age. My mum has always been a reader and encouraged me to read, buying me endless book from classic fairy tales advancing to the world of Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, Kathryn Kenny, Carolyn Keene, Francine Pascal. In my adult years the list of authors is endless and every room in my house is filled with books.
One of my favourite novels is Narnia which has always has a special place in my heart. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1978 and when I was given this book to read it let me escape to another world where I felt like I was in the book with all the characters, it wasfun and exciting to escape from reality and eased the ups and downs of the disease at such a young age.
In books nothing is impossible and there is endless potential and hundreds of places to explore or being taken to places that are only made up from the authors’ great minds, the past and future to navigate, characters lives you step into taking you on an emotional rollercoaster ride or being scared out of your wits. I can experience things that I can’t in real life because they’re not possible or real. It challenges my perspective and mindset expanding my worldview.
I find joy, comfort and peace with books, many people may not get it, but I know bookworms like me truly understand. Reading makes my heart happy.