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8 of 8 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 5 months ago by PedroTheSwift

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3 of 3 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 7 months ago by Carol Dean


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read, 11 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (Kindle Edition)
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating, 27 Dec 2013
By 
S. Ramsey-Hardy (italy) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (Kindle Edition)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Priscilla: The Hidden Life, 20 May 2014
This review is from: Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (Kindle Edition)
This is a beautifully written book.
Glamour, beauty, lovers. And behind
this front, the trauma of a miserable
childhood which is never healed. An utterly
poignant account of psychological survival
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing Tale, 14 May 2014
By 
Mike Jacobs (Brugnens, Gers, France) - See all my reviews
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We are used to traditional war stories - the foes live in their territory, we in ours. This interesting biographical work is evidence that it is not always so. The well-connected English Priscilla survived - flourished, even, from time to time - in German occupied France, and emerged pretty unscathed, physically at least, at the end. The book is well put together, as one would expect of Nicholas Shakespeare, but I fear that his editor might have inserted one or two expressions which do not mesh with the rest of the text or the times described. An example is one of my pet hates "train station" - a current anathema, but which certainly ill-fits the time being written of - the pre-war years. Little hiccups such as this, however, do not really detract from the overall tale, which is absorbing and a brilliant insight into largely hitherto unknown territory for me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not your usual wartime story., 17 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (Kindle Edition)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars remains a hidden life..., 24 July 2014
By 
Zangiku (Kyoto, Japan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (Kindle Edition)
this is an exciting & educational read about a variety of lives under the nazi occupation of france, a period about which not much is commonly known. it is well written and there is much to learn here.

but historians would wish the book had been written as fiction rather than "non." there is really no reliable evidence about P's sensational relationships with the high-ranking nazis plundering europe of art treasures, a fact which the author admits but does not allow to stop him from speculating rather wildly, being able to "well imagine her" sitting in Maxim's with these guys as they sieg-heiled each other and so on. this kind of speculation, altho it would have made a helluva novel, is odious in a book calling itself non-fiction and on which the subject is no longer alive to defend or explain herself.

she remains, in fact, a mystery and it remains a hidden life. abandoned or betrayed by virtually everyone she loved, one wishes she might have been treated rather better by the little boy whom she always let crawl onto her bed and watch her telly.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Occupation Paris, 8 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (Kindle Edition)
How would you have behaved in order to survive? Human fraility laid bare. Reads like a thriller. I would recommend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 24 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (Kindle Edition)
This was a very good book. What an interesting life this lady led. It must have been very interesting to have researched he life. It was very good to read as her life unfolded.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-researched true story which reads like a novel. Compelling and memorable., 22 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (Kindle Edition)
I loved this book, as did my husband, and we have recommended it to all our friends of one of the books we have most enjoyed recently. Shakespeare paints a wonderful portrait of his aunt and her survival in wartime France. It is also a brilliant portrait of the fall of France in 1940 and the sordid underside of occupied Paris.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nearly forgotten history: a dazzling piece of family research, 29 Jan 2014
By 
Mrs. Margaret Little "Meg" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (Kindle Edition)
This is the extraordinary life story of Nicholas Shakespeare's aunt Priscilla Mais, born in 1916, a gifted and promising individual of whom - for reason after reason all of which, sadly, pile up on each other as one reads this book - none of us readers, prior to its publication, is likely ever to have heard.
The daughter of an in his time eminent, but now almost forgotten, journalist and broadcaster called S.P.B. Mais, she was disadvantaged from birth by her parents' separation, her father's remarriage and abandonment of her to an extremely unsympathetic mother, and a general neglect of her talents which, for both ballet dancing and literary composition, were considerable.ment of
An unplanned pregnancy - in those days, of course, unforgivable - followed by a botched illegal abortion insisted on by her mother, left Priscilla permanently infertile. This tragedy, only gradually realised, blighted her life as (like so many other people who, neglected in childhood, try to reclaim the happiness they never knew by cherishing offspring of their own) her greatest desire in the world was to give birth to a baby.
Having married a French aristocrat - who sadly, due to difficulties of his own, proved unable to assist her in achieving that ambition - Priscilla found herself trapped in France by the Nazi invasion of May 1940. Released, finally, from a horrible internment camp for enemy aliens, she embarked on a wandering and financially precarious existence with a series of lovers and, in the process, became involved with several French Resistance members and - at least - one prominent Nazi.
Following arrest by the Gestapo, from whose attentions she was rescued - only just - by the prominent Nazi, her subsequent plight and the conflicting emotions, not to mention the practical difficulties, which Priscilla's life subsequently involved can only be imagined by present-day readers but my goodness, does Nicholas Shakespeare help us to imagine them! This book is un-put-downable - GENUINELY un-put-downable, which is not a thing I often find, but I was up all night reading it.
It is well written, and meticulously researched (the references occupy ten per cent of the book's pages) and altogether heart-rending. A triumph!
It has, of course, already been serialised as a BBC morning story.
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