Author: J.R. Lonie
Publication Date: March 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
The Woman from Saint Germain is the first novel by J. R. Lonie, AKA John Lonie renowned screenwriter, script editor and playwright, co-writer of the feature film Kokoda, and one of the writers on the television series A Place to Call Home.
Historical fiction has always been one of my favourite genres, but I also think it is one of the hardest genres to write. When done well you become immersed in the history of the period. The fictional aspects enable you to experience the realities of the time being written about, draw you in and give you a depth of understanding of the period that just reading a historical account never could.
This book centres on the character Eleanor Gorton Clarke, an American celebrated author living in Paris at the start of World War 2. Although her French lover has been killed fighting the German invasion, Eleanor considers that being an American she is safe in the country she loves, and so she chooses not to return to the safety of her family when she could easily do so.
So, when America joins the Allies in the fight against the Germans, she suddenly finds herself trapped in an increasingly German occupied country and realises that she must join those trying to flee the oppressors.
Armed only with highly sought after American Chesterfield cigarettes, her favourite perfumes and other cosmetics, and incongruously a first edition copy of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, Eleanor seeks to escape the only way left, through a local passeur, to Vichy France and then across the border to Spain.
Along the way she becomes entangled with a sullen young man, and the kitten that hides in his coat. Despite their dislike and distrust of each other, they must work together to escape to freedom, with the Gestapo snapping at their heels and internment or worse their fate if caught.
It is clear that Lonie has done his research for this book. He documents well the trials and tribulations of those trying to escape Nazi occupied France during the war, and the experiences of those members of the Wermacht identified as Mischling, outed as Jews because a parent without their knowledge had been born Jewish. I am unclear to what extent the character of Eleanor is founded on fact and have the impression that she is a blend of fact, fantasy and gross exaggeration.
For me, while the book is well written, with interesting characters, it was not an easy book to engage with. Reading the blurb at the end about the author, my disengagement became clarified as I realised that to me the book read like a screenplay with a bit extra to try to make it into a novel. Personally, I think this book would make an excellent film or telemovie and I’d be very interested to read what others who have been given the opportunity to read and review the book think.
My thanks as always to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read and review The Woman from Saint Germain.
I give it 3.5 stars.
This guest review was submitted by our Beauty and Lace Club member: Marcia. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Marcia.
The Woman from St Germain is published by Simon and Schuster and is available now were all good books are sold.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading The Woman from St Germain so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.