BOOK CLUB: The French Gift

Click to rate this book!
[Total: 2 Average: 5]

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.

ISBN: 9781760528096

Copy courtesy of publisher: Allen & Unwin

A selection of our members are reading The French Gift. Read their reviews below, or add your own!

12 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The French Gift

  1. This book has an amazing ending, the struggle was real to get to that point.

    Although it wrapped it up and it all sort of fell into place right at the end a little more info earlier on would of made it more enticing. All in all I was satisfied with the ending so an enjoyable book.

  2. Thankyou Beautyandlace and Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read and review ‘The French Gift’ by Kirsty Manning.
    This begins in 1939 where in Villa Sanary Tilly and Ted Munro are hosting a party, which they have done in the past.
    Tilly has organized a ‘murder game’ where she is going to stage a fake murder (her parties are always exciting) and has arranged for her housemaid Margo Bisset to be part of her plan which involves Peggy Shamsburg.
    The ‘murder’ does not go as planned and Margo finds herself accused and sharing a prison cell with Josephine Murant a French Resistance fighter.
    The book returns to the present day and Evie Black (widow of Raph) and son Hugo have inherited Villa Sanary from Josephine’s will. They set out with Dr Clement Tazi to search for an unpublished manuscript written by Josephine who as an successful author lived as a recluse at the time of her death at 100.

    A really exciting read, so interesting and with an ending that keeps you wanting to read till the end and leave the work to be done tomorrow!

  3. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read and review Kirsty Manning’s The French Gift. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Evie in the present day and Josephine and Margot’s story set during World War 2 and I definitely wasn’t expecting the twist towards the end, the war experience highlighted the suffering that was endured during this time. All in all a great read 4⭐️

  4. This lovely story revolves around two main characters, Margo Bisset and Josephine Murant! Their life in Fresnes Prison where they met and whilst in a work camp in Germany.
    Later day character is Evie Black, her son Hugo who with the help Clement Tazi who was interested in putting on an exhibition of Josephine Murant’s work.
    This is a heart wrenching, sole searching and humbling novel which can only be described as a book you must read!
    Sadness, loyalty, friendship and love are all captured in this story.
    My review cannot do it enough justice without giving the story away!

    Thank you Kirsty Manning for this compelling story.
    Thank you Beauty and Lace for allowing me to read it.

  5. The French Gift took me on story that wound back to happenings during the war and the ripple on effect that had during the current times.

    Inspired by true events it is an unforgettable story and the author has given the story a sense of belonging and respect to the characters but the ending did not captivate me, I felt a bit let down. I enjoyed the style of writing and the changing of the here and now to then, tying it all together and I would recommend it. In fact I feel the need to reread, at least the last third, as I create the characters and the events in my head like a movie while reading, to make sure that I haven’t incorrectly ‘edited’ the story, I want to make sure I understood it fully.

    I am now going to find Kirsty Mannings other books and read them too.

  6. Thank you for the opportunity to read The French Gift by Kirsty Manning.
    Such a beautiful engaging book to read.
    Beginning in 1939 at Villa Sahara Cote D’azur.
    A beautiful marble floored foyer with politicians,artists,writers and socialites gather for a party.
    They plan a fake murder but this does not go as planned and the main character Margot ends up in Anrath Prison in Germany were she meets Josephine Murant a bestselling author who form a long lasting friendship.
    From 1939 to the present day a well documented true to life story I was captivated from beginning to end.
    A beautiful story about friendship ,war and heartbreak.
    Thank you for the chance to read this beautifully written book.

  7. What a beautiful book to read.

    A true war time love story with all the twists and turns you would expect but with the hook line and sinker attached to keep you turning those pages over until the very end.

    The blend of now and then worked really well and I was not expecting the twist. Not sure whether I liked the ending but enjoyed the journey!

  8. This riveting, but at times difficult to read, novel is a story of friendship, love, loss and what we will do to protect our friends and loved ones. The storyline jumps from the time of the 2nd World War to the present day.
    The novel opens in 1939 at Villa Sanary on the Cote D’Azur in France. We are introduced to Margot Bisset, a housemaid, as she helps her employers prepare for a special party. As part of the celebrations her mistress has a plan to arrange a faux murder and Margot is the one who has to fire a gun into the air. Things go horribly wrong and Margot is arrested for murder.
    The story then jumps to 2019 and the death of the famous novelist Josephine Murant and we meet Evie Black (the wife of Josephine’s late nephew). Evie is executor of Josephine’s estate and embarks on a search for a missing manuscript.
    Much of the story is focussed on what happened to Josephine and Margot during the 2nd World War, how they met, their friendship and the horrors they had to endure as slaves of the Nazis. I understand the novel was inspired by the true story of French Resistance fighter, Agnes Humbert. Judging by what I have read of Anges Humbert’s life story Josephine Murant has many of her character traits including her humour.
    While reading about what happened to women in the Nazi slave camps isn’t easy its good that the stories of what happened to these brave women are told – we should never forget the horrors that millions of people suffered during the 2nd World War.
    Despite the horrors of what happened to Margot and Josephine I did like this novel, Evie’s story was enjoyable and I would thoroughly recommend this novel. I will be looking out for other novels by Kirsty Manning.
    Many thanks to Beauty & Lace Book Club and Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this novel.

  9. The French Gift is an intriguing book to read. I must admit it took me a little while to begin, but once I did I was riveted to each page to find out more about each particular character.
    For those interested in historical facts, it is easy to research the places and events mentioned. You do have to be careful not to digress too far with the research though as its often too distracting. The research listing at the back of the book is also extremely helpful.
    Getting back to the novel itself is the best part of the experience.

    Big thanks to Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read such a delightful book. I will be eager to read more from Kirsty Manning in the future.

  10. I am a bit baffled. Do we ever find out who really killed Peggy Schramsburg ? We do know that Margot did not. Is this mystery ever solved? Cannot find anything definitive in the book. HELP!

  11. Any questions to help guide in a bookclub discussion group? Where is the reply to my comment if I did post this before?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *