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on 21 July 2017
A very interesting account of the authors Aunty Priscilla and her life during WWII.
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on 12 October 2015
well written, wrinkles and all account of survival in Occupied France. One cannot help but sympathise with Priscilla and the cross she had to bear in later life.
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on 27 December 2013
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 some 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 confronting 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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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.
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on 6 February 2017
Like Resistance: Memoirs of Occupied France by Agnes Humbert, Cast No Shadow by Mary S Lovell, The Spy who Loved Christine Granville by Clare Mulley, A Life in Secrets by Sarah Helm, David Golder & Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky & When Paris Went Dark by Ronald Rosbottom - see elsewhere on my Profile page although as it was about his aunt a more personal account which was well-researched. Background details interesting.
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on 11 March 2014
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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on 4 January 2016
I wondered whether the glowing reviews could all be true (as they so often aren't), but Nicholas Shakespeare deserves his plaudits. His aunt was ultimately a sad character, damaged by a class-bound dysfunctional family, a variety of unsuitable and unsavoury lovers and the need to survive in occupied France. The reader-reviewers who were offended by her choices and behaviour miss the point: we can learn as much from the weak as from the heroic, and Priscilla's story tells us a lot about the peculiar times she lived through - and the heavy price she paid. As someone who has just written the biography of a wartime heroine (not without her own flaws) I wanted to find fault with this book, but I found it involving and profoundly moving. It does go up some slightly irritating side-alleys and is a bit too long but it is beautifully written, with insight and empathy. It's hard to like Priscilla, but we can't help but be intrigued by her.
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on 10 February 2014
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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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.
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on 11 March 2014
I chose this book because of her war connections but it turned out to be a biographer.Quite boring for me.
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