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on 17 January 2014
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.
8 people found this helpful
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on 4 March 2016
This is a fascinating and compassionate portrait of the author's aunt which follows her bid to survive amid the sometimes cruel realities of the German occupation of France during the Second World War. The author does not flinch from describing the inevitable moral ambiguity of her behaviour basing his conclusions on evidence both written and oral from people who knew her. Perhaps the saddest part for me, in a life that seems to have had plenty of sadnesses, was the ending of it. Priscilla became a Roman Catholic in order to marry her aristocratic French husband, a conversion which appears to have had little impact on her love affairs, but she never seems to have been taught that God offers mercy and forgiveness. Therefore she believed that her remarriage after the war was an unforgivable sin in the eyes of God. Her unlikely spiritual adviser appears to have been a verger at the (Anglican) Chichester Cathedral. I highly recommend this book.
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on 27 January 2016
I can imagine the curiosity which led the author to try to unravel the life of his aunt, who seemed to be a complex and unhappy person. For those not personally associated with her this provided a good insight into occupied France as a British woman. They all dealt with it in their own way and should not be criticised as we have not walked in their shoes. Speaking as a war baby, the Second World War was too new to be taught in class and so one learns about it from literature, film, and documentaries. This provided another slant which I was glad to read.
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on 18 November 2015
How on earth this got so many good reviews I do not know. I only finished it because it was a book club read, otherwise I wold have given up. A random mix of the author talking about his research, and the subject's story. Jumping from one to the other, just when you start to enjoy a part and it seems to get going, it stops again
I am interested in he subject matter and was keen to read it but no, no, no, no. Doesn't hold the attention.
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on 1 May 2014
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"
3 people found this helpful
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on 29 January 2014
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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on 29 September 2014
Strange story, but utterly compelling; the writing style is discursive, even erratic at times, which is an irritation and detracts (hence only 4 stars), but generally from very thin sources Mr Shakespeare has woven a thoroughly believable account of a conflicted life in confused times.
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on 30 January 2014
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.
4 people found this helpful
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on 21 March 2016
A fascinating book, particularly so because I knew some of the characters mentioned in it. However, I had hoped that she had been involved in the Resistance and that there would be interesting tales there, but evidently she was not, at least only in her imagination!
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on 21 January 2014
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.
3 people found this helpful
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