The Lost Girls of Paris

By: Pam Jenoff

Recently I have been choosing books about women during WWII.  I don’t know why I have veered toward this type of historical fiction, but the results have been surprisingly good.  The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff (also the author of The Orphan’s Tale and The Kommandant’s Girl) s inspired by true events and shifts between 1943 just before the D-Day invasion and 1946, post war in New York. 

The story is about a British Special Operations Executive (I.e., unit) designed to wreak what havoc (e.g., blowing up bridges and trains) to help deter the German forces.  A group of young women, barely out of high school, are recruited as radio transmitters to help in the war. 

The mastermind behind the operation is Eleanor Trigg, who creates an all-female unit when she realizes that male agents are out of place when posing as civilians since all the men have gone to war.  Eleanor’s newest recruit, Marie, is taken to France to be a radio transmitter.  Soon Eleanor realizes the mission is compromised and the Germans are transmitting signals on British radios.  However, with the D-Day invasion looming, Eleanor’s superiors won’t shut down radio transmissions leaving the young women in her unit, including Marie, in deep peril, facing possible capture and death.  This novel is not about Eleanor playing the hero, rather the focus is on what happened to the women and discovering who in the SOE was behind a grave betrayal that kept the radio transmissions running despite the German’s interventions.

The author delivers the narrative in a unique way.  Three years after the event, when the War is over, Eleanor is searching for the truth.  Suddenly, Grace a young woman living in New York, is thrust into the picture, picking up the trail from Eleanor.  The story flows nicely between the two time periods.  While the story contains two minor love interests, these sidelines don’t overshadow the women’s heroic efforts.  To the contrary, the story reveals the desire of some women, to understand themselves before committing to others.

The author has experience as a Foreign Service Officer for the State Department in Europe, and she is a lawyer.  Her first-hand knowledge of intelligence operations shines through, without being too technical.

I am writing this review on Memorial Day and I am appreciative of the author showcasing ordinary citizens who willingly took extraordinary actions during the war.  Thank you to all who served in any war or conflict, whether you wore a uniform or not.