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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read
This book had me hooked from start to finish .. and helped me appreciate the difficulties faced by people such as Priscilla (and French women in particular) during the German occupation of France. There were some two million French POWs kept in German prison camps during the occupation (something I was unaware of), with their womenfolk largely left to fend for themselves...
Published 7 months ago by PedroTheSwift

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not your usual wartime story.
I enjoyed most of this book as it didn't sugar coat or romanticise the occupation of wartime France. It provokes the reader to ask themselves how they would have behaved under similar circumstances.

What I did find a little uncomfortable was reading about unsavoury or less that heroic behaviour by individuals who are no longer around to either defend themselves...
Published 9 months ago by Carol Dean


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not your usual wartime story., 17 Jan 2014
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I enjoyed most of this book as it didn't sugar coat or romanticise the occupation of wartime France. It provokes the reader to ask themselves how they would have behaved under similar circumstances.

What I did find a little uncomfortable was reading about unsavoury or less that heroic behaviour by individuals who are no longer around to either defend themselves or put the record straight.

That said, it certainly appears to be an honest description of the lives and 'loves' of people who were less than perfect and led quite extraordinary lives before, during and after World War II.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read, 11 Mar 2014
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This book had me hooked from start to finish .. and helped me appreciate the difficulties faced by people such as Priscilla (and French women in particular) during the German occupation of France. There were some two million French POWs kept in German prison camps during the occupation (something I was unaware of), with their womenfolk largely left to fend for themselves. If survival and finding enough food to live on meant collaboration or sleeping with the enemy, so be it ... and shame on those (notably the so-called and singularly inept French Resistance) who treated such women so brutally and unthinkingly after the war had ended. I often wonder what level of collaboration would have occurred in Great Britain had Germany occupied Britain during the war. It's very easy to criticise in hindsight behaviour that would rightly be considered inappropriate in peacetime I recommend this book very highly. It's beautifully researched and elegantly written.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes good - sometimes iffy!, 10 Feb 2014
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Mrs. M. Watson (UK) - See all my reviews
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I really liked this book but wanted to like it more. There are quite repetitive bits and, as a woman,I find it very difficult to comprehend that men fell for Priscilla in such great numbers and with such enthusiasm over her 'beauty'. However, perhaps I am being naive and not realising the full extent of the affairs. There again, how could anyone know the full extent - not even a family member writing her memoirs.
Still a good read and gets better more towards the end after the "internment".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but a bit rambling, 30 Jan 2014
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A very interesting time in history which has been brought to life in this book. At times it seemed to ramble on a bit as personal stories have a habit of doing and I would lose my train of thought & have to go back & re-read it. All in all well worth a read, I couldn't make up my mind whether Priscilla was a conniving woman using whatever means to secure her own safety or just a very stupid easily led creature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An incredible family history, 29 Jan 2014
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T. R. Shoebridge "Terry" (Tonbridge Kent UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (Hardcover)
I bought this book after a review in the Mail on Sunday and was not disappointed with it.
Although the wartime experience was only a part of a whole life history the number of well known 'names' checked in it shows just what a Small World we do live in.
It also suggests that the 'ruthlessly efficient Third Reich' was in fact just as big a shambles of competing organisations as any other.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read if you are interested in the period, 1 May 2014
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Mike (Chelmsford, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Just finished this on the plane. Very interesting context to things that were happening in France and Paris in WWII. Some of the restaurants mentioned are still there under the same name. Of the woman herself I am sure psychologists would have a field day, however to use a phrase that I first heard from my late mother in law "she was no better than she ought to have been"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbingly addictive, 21 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (Hardcover)
Slow to start, slightly muddled in time lines, but became compulsive reading. Made one realise how lucky this generation (and mine ) are not to have had to face what she faced, and how female she was in tackling it. Would have loved to have had more of Priscilla, and more detail of her later life - good read, not quite 5 stars.
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3.0 out of 5 stars more like a character from May Wesley's "The Camomile Lawn, 27 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (Hardcover)
I commend Nicholas Shakespeare in many ways for this book though I have a few criticisms. While I accept that he had a personal interest in Prisicilla Mais as his half-aunt I did not think she came across as a particularly interesting person, more like a character from May Wesley's "The Camomile Lawn," Calypso perhaps. A great great aunt of mine was also in Besancon, then released and allowed to return to her Paris apartment. It wouldn't enter my head to turn that into a book. My grandmother escaped France with her children courtesy of the 2nd BEF from Saint Malo. Both my mother and aunt were infinitely more worthwhile people than Priscilla insofar as they each joined the WRNS and the WAAF as soon as they were eligible to do so. Compared to many infinitely more interesting people that might attract research of this nature, Priscilla Mais really seems a bit slight and that the only focus of interest is screwing around in Occupied Paris with fringe members of the collabo community.

I also feel that aspects of Nicholas Shakespeare's research are not very sure footed. Dunkirk and the withdrawal of the 2nd BEF were distinctly separate events, which does not quite come across in NS's narrative. Nor does one get the feeling that he understands military formations; to say that Rommel's 7th Panzer Div bivouacked at Boisgrimont, hmmm, - a division is usually more than 10,000 men, so that's a lot of tents on that tree lined front avenue. Nor does he seem to understand that Operation Otto was a more general theft project from Occupied France than just art, which mostly came under the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, based at the Jeu de Paume.

Also the story seems to turn on some very slight and unconvincing problems. So Priscilla's French aristo husband was impotent was he? It is generally not a good idea for a man 40+ to have a large supper washed down with several glasses of wine if he's intending to bed a younger woman afterwards. And surely a dutiful Catholic convert wife would encourage him to see his doc before reaching for a parade of lovers while remaining fond of him. Besides, among Catholics, non-consummation is sufficient cause for an annulment.

However, I was interested by this book and, despite its glaring flaws, enjoyed the verve with which it was written and the atmosphere of Occupied Paris which NS often conjured up very well.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating, 27 Dec 2013
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S. Ramsey-Hardy (italy) - See all my reviews
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From extensive research Nicholas Shakespeare has reconstructed a fascinating and touching personality in the life of his aunt, Priscilla Mais.

Not a distant relative of Jane Eyre, she is an unlikely heroine. Not by nature an initiator, but beautiful, Priscilla is someone to whom things happened. Her story, after a miserable childhood, is set mostly in France during the German Occupation and has dramatic ups and downs.

The destiny of this English vicomtesse, looking for safety, fulfilment and love, is a real-life romantic adventure which because it is true, sticks in the mind.

At the story's centre the author sympathetically describes the fraught choices which confront Priscilla, a woman from an enemy country, in Paris under the control of the Gestapo. At the end of the war Priscilla escaped from France "just in time", and later she tried to keep hidden what had happened.

Priscilla's heartbreaking difficulties adjusting to a completely different life in England after the war (which should have been easier but wasn't), is uncannily like Susan Trahearn's destructive post-war crisis in David Hare's play, "Plenty".

I read this a couple of months ago, and this woman still haunts my imagination.

The kindle version of the book includes photographs.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing but shocking life story, 20 Jan 2014
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Brutally honest, well researched and imaginatively told story of an extraordinary life..
Shines a new light on France's record in WW2 and how some women preferred to live rather than work ...
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Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France
Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France by Nicholas Shakespeare (Hardcover - 7 Nov 2013)
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