Lost Girls of Paris (Jenoff)

The Lost Girls of Paris 
Pam Jenoff, 2019
Park Row
384 pp.

A remarkable story of friendship and courage centered around three women and a ring of female secret agents during World War II.

1946, Manhattan
One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench.

Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance.

But they never returned home, their fates a mystery.

Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
Education—B.A., George Washington University; M.A., Cambridge University; J.D., University of Pennsylvania
Currently—lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England.

Upon receiving her master's in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.

Following her work at the Pentagon, Pam moved to the State Department. In 1996 she was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. It was during this period that Pam developed her expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust. Working on matters such as preservation of Auschwitz and the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, Pam developed close relations with the surviving Jewish community.

Pam left the Foreign Service in 1998 to attend law school and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She worked for several years as a labor and employment attorney both at a firm and in-house in Philadelphia and now teaches law school at Rutgers.

Pam is the author of The Kommandant's Girl, which was an international bestseller and nominated for a Quill award, as well as The Diplomat's Wife, The Ambassador's Daughter, Almost Home, A Hidden Affair and The Things We Cherished.

She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
[The] emotional profundity [of The Orphan's Trail] is sadly lacking in Jenoff’s latest.… Jenoff has at her disposal a great, mostly untold story of heroism and espionage, both about the woman who trained an elite force of operatives and then spent years looking for them after their death, and also about what it was like to be one of those women, but the result has all of the tension of a Hallmark card. This is a slight re-telling of a remarkable story and an unusual slip-up from the dependable Jenoff.
USA Today

Jenoff brings serious girl power to this story of brave women and the war.

A portrait of sisterhood, courage, and drama. A must-read.

[A] fast-paced novel… Jenoff allows [her characters]distinct personalities to shine. This is a mesmerizing tale full of appealing characters, intrigue, suspense, and romance.
Publishers Weekly

[P]assion and heartache greet the brave patriot. Verdict: Jenoff weaves the stories of three remarkable women in this fast-paced title that boasts an intriguing plot and strong female characters. —Laura Jones, Argos Community Schs., IN
Library Journal

[A] gripping WWII-era tale…. Jenoff breathes life into the tale of a committed “Band of Sisters” who displayed boundless courage in the face of historically dire circumstances, creating a compelling and exciting read.

Jenoff's wartime chronology is blurred by overly general date headings… and confusing continuity. Sparsely punctuated by shocking brutality and defiant bravery, the narrative is, for the most part, flabby and devoid of tension.… A sadly slapdash World War II adventure.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for THE LOST GIRLS OF PARIS ... and then take off on your own:

1. What possesses Grace Healy to open the suitcase at Grand Central and abscond with the photos? Would you have done so?

2. What do we learn about Eleanor Trigg, who initially was a secretary at SOE? Why is she given the responsibility to put together the spy team—what qualifies her in terms of experience and character? (Eleanor is based on the real life of Vera Atkins: see below.)

3. What does Eleanor look for in her recruits? Why does she select each of the women she does?

4. Talk about the training process for the women and the rigors involved. Would you have made the grade? What would have been most difficult for you?

5. What about Marie, whose point of view we follow? During training, she has trouble mastering a number of the tasks, so much so that she would appear unqualified. Where you surprised at her later accomplishments?

6. The story has three different points of view and moves back and forth through time. Did you appreciate the shifting perspectives and chronology? Or was it difficult to follow at times?

7. Why do you think the romance between Marie and Julian is limited to eye contact and fleeting glances. Would you have preferred to have more of their relationship develop on the page, rather than off (not counting his profession of love much later in the book)?

8. Of the 12 women selected, do you have a favorite; do some impress you more than others?

9. Most of all, talk about the incredible courage all of these women possessed—and the horrific, life-threatening dangers they faced.

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)
Consider two nonfiction works on Britain's female spies:
• Helms, Sarah. A Life in Secret: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII. Knopf Doubleday (2006).
• Loftis, Larry. Code Name: Lise: The True Story of the Woman Who Became World War II's Most Highly Decorated Spy. Gallery Books (2019)

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