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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 23 April 2017
I listened to this as an audio book, and much enjoyed the narrator's rendition of the characters esp. Charlotte's soft Scottish lilt.

So much could say about the novel -will be brief though. Charlotte the main character goes on a journey to occupied France during world war 2, undercover for 'G Section' in order to help the French resistance. But her bosses back in the UK don't know that she is also in France to find her lost airman lover. As she travels in France in the guise of an assumed identity, and gets involved with local people and embroiled in their lives, Charlotte starts to find out who the real Charlotte is and to address the rift between herself and her father.

I admire the way Faulks gets underneath his character's skins, Charlotte's especially. Physically, emotionally, mentally. He has a wonderfully straightforward, unshowy writing style which slowly draws you in until you are deep into the story, walking with the characters and seeing from their eyes - and knowing where to pull back, where to focus closer.

There are some difficult-to-read concentration camp scenes later on in the book.
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on 16 March 2017
An incredibly vivid story about Charlotte Gray's induction into covert work for the British in rural France. We follow her emotional journey from finding love in London, only to lose her fighter pilot lover when he is reported missing over France. She embarks on her first mission and finds herself drawn into the lives of the local people and decides to stay. And, she is convinced that her lover is still alive. A brilliant read.
June Finnigan - Writer
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on 26 May 2014
I found Birdsong so overwhelming I could never think of reading it again. But Charlotte Gray I have read twice and thought it excellent both times. Oh to be loved by such a woman. Also try Spy Princess, about the life of the war hero, Noor Inayat Khan.
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on 24 May 2017
Very good book thankyou
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on 7 September 1999
Having only ever read (and enjoyed) Faulks' "Birdsong" before I looked forward to meeting Charlotte Gray. I was not disappointed.
This is a moving and disturbing story of one young woman's experiences as an undercover courier in France during the 1940's. Charlotte comes over almost as an anti-hero, she is at once sophisticated yet naive, caring yet callous, brave yet timid (or foolhardy?). Although the main plot revolves around her attempts to track down her English lover, reported as missing in action after being shot down over France, this is NOT a love story. The imagery created by the narrative puts you deep in the heart of war-torn France, with all the personal conflicts and emotions of the people involved on all sides. The sub-plot around the two Jewish boys, tragically separated from their parents ... is the most moving part of the book. Told through their eyes, we feel their innocence and the way they instinctively trust and follow any adult they come into contact with, secure in the mistaken belief that they will one day be reunited with their parents. WE know what is happening to them - THEY don't. Their final scene ... almost made me cry. We should all be ashamed of man's inhumanity to man at times of war. Charlotte too, in tracing the boys to a "work camp", herself naively believes that the boys will only to put to work. We never know if she realises at the end exactly how far from the truth she was ...
The book's only flaw is the half-hearted attempt to examine Charlotte's relationship with her father. I felt it had no real bearing on the development of her character ...
All in all, a great read. But prepare to be traumatised, and have some misconceptions about the French Resistance movement shattered.
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on 18 March 2002
I seem to be alone in not finding Birdsong the most marvellous book ever - possibly because I read it just after Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy, which I found much more involving.
The problem I had with Birdsong was that, when reading about an event in which millions of people died, I find it hard to care about a single love affair. It is very difficult to write about such tragic and all-consuming world events without reducing the love lives of two single people to triviality.
Charlotte Grey somehow transcended this, making the love plot both moving, involving and seemingly symbolic of all the hope and suffering that participants in the war must have experienced. The beautiful writing and marvellously realised, convincing and sympathetic characters give the affair a sense of universality. Even against the grim and traumatic backdrop of the Vichy government's collaberation with the Germans and their seemingly enthusiastic participation in the persecution of the Jews, Charlotte's love affair and her struggle for personal happiness seem both engrossing and important.
On top of that, I found it a real page-turner - couldn't stop reading it. Great, great book.
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on 13 August 1999
Little does the unwary reader suspect how their emotions will be squeezed, stirred and hung out to dry as they follow Charlotte Gray into war - torn 1940's France. Sebastian Faulks has again produced a novel of great power and perception, which, coupled with his extraordinary ability to breath life into his characters, makes Charlotte Gray one of the most deeply disturbing novels I have ever read. Yet, as with Birdsong, having ruthlessly exposed the horrific inhumanity of man during times of conflict, Faulks shows us the sliver of light at the end of the tunnel, the hope which makes it all bearable. The images spinning off the pages of this book will live with you for a LONG time. Mr Faulks, you are a dangerous man.
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on 5 September 2012
Even though I greatly enjoyed the majority of this `British lass battles the Nazis in France' novel, I have to say that - after turning the final page - I'm somewhat disappointed. It's a really good book and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who wanted an incredibly well written tale of recent history. But still, it's far from perfect and I'll confess that, as I was working my way into it over the first hundred pages or so, there were moments when I was tempted to just hurl it against a wall and give up the whole thing as a bad lot.

The main problem, certainly in the opening sections, is Charlotte Gray herself. The character we're introduced to (as opposed to the one she develops into) is like a wet weekend - a kind of mournful and dour presence that you wish would just go away. It's never great when a reader wants the central character - and the title character, to boot - to just sod off! Her fairly joyless presence even has the odd effect of making the London sections at the beginning of this novel seem flat and less than convincing - particularly strange as Faulks actually lives in this city.

Once Charlotte is flown across enemy lines, however, the novel picks up tremendously. The French sections are brilliantly done: combining an unflinching view of life during wartime and the worst of what man is capable of; with a more positive recognition of individual courage and camaraderie in the face of seemingly overwhelming force. On the other side of The Channel, Charlotte herself becomes a more dynamic character and the book goes with her, creating a tale which brings out passion, outrage and suspense, but never dips far into melodrama.

Unfortunately that isn't sustained right to the finish line, as the ending is somewhat flabby and inconsequential. So what I really like about this book is the middle, and that's fine. I've read other tales of wartime derring-do that don't manage as much in their entire length as Faulks does in the middle of `Charlotte Gray'. So, it's a book I have reservations about, but one that I - for the most part - thoroughly enjoyed.
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on 18 June 2017
I loved this book from the beginning. I have read most Faulk's books but have not read this before as I saw the film years ago. I have no idea how so many chick lit novels end up with 5 star reviews and this only averages 4. Don't get me wrong, I love a bit of easy reading but this is far superior and on a totally different level. I highly recommend it.
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on 7 December 2009
I would recommend reading Faulk's first two `French' novels before this one. It's not that either Birdsong or The Girl at the Lion D'or are linked to this one in terms of plot or characters but thematically the three books are closely connected and reveal Faulks' remarkable affinity with and ability to describe, the people and politics of France in the first half of the twentieth century. Charlotte Gray is set after the other two, during World War Two and follows the path of a young Scottish Woman as she travels firstly to London and then to France, a country she knows well from her youth, in the employ of the British Secret Service. Charlotte is, by nature quiet and introverted. She feels disconnected from the people and world around her as she struggles to come to terms with a dark family secret. She meets and falls in love with an airman, Peter Gregory, whose past is similarly troubled and with whom she forms a powerful, at times unnervingly so, connection. They are separated when both undertake missions in France and the bulk of the novel is concerned with her attempts to find him again. Along the way she encounters a range of characters whose social and political perspectives are gradually exposed. Aside from the often quite brilliant use of language and careful characterisation perhaps the thing the book does best is to educate the reader about war time Vichy France. I learnt an enormous amount about the attitudes and ideas, some of them quite shocking, which were commonplace at the time. Faulks leads the reader steadily through the intricate maze of Communists, Nazi-sympathisers, French nationalists, pro and anti Gaulists and of course anti-Semites. To explain this complex situation whilst at the same time maintaining a complicated and engaging plot is an achievement indeed. The characters are generally well drawn and convincing although several, including Charlotte, sometimes seem a little too cerebral and intellectual to be true. If Faulks has a fault, it is, in my opinion, to sometimes work rather too hard to reveal a character's mental machinations. Charlotte thinks and reflects constantly, to the point where, sometimes, any other kind of activity seems impossible. Perhaps as a consequence of this the book feels a little too long. There are periods in the second half where movement becomes a bit sluggish and dare I say it, a little dull. However the narrative picks up again towards the end and the Detention Camp sequences in particular, are powerfully moving. Faulks is clearly one of Britain's best authors of historical fiction and a must for anyone interested in the conflicts that decimated Europe in the twentieth century.
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