Thursday, 5 May 2022

Two Novels set in France during WWII


 The Dressmaker's Gift by [Fiona Valpy] 

The Dressmaker's Gift
by Fiona Valpy (2019)

Kindle + Audible

Audio book narrated by Anne Flosnik and Justin Eyre
9 hrs 12 min

* * *

This is a story told from a double perspective of today vs the past. A young woman, Harriet, goes to Paris and obtains a job as well as living quarters in the same building where her grandmother lived and worked as a seamstress back during WWII. She has an old photo from those days of her grandmother with two other girls. As it happens, her own roommate turns out to be the grandchild of one of the two others, and knows more about all three of them. Through her Harriet gets to know their story. They all got involved in the resistance movement in France during the war, and also had to suffer for that.

I agree with some other reviews I read of the book that the double time perspective sometimes really doesn't seem to add all that much, and that to just tell the story of the three women in WWII might have been a better choice. Listening to the audio book, I also found the voices of the two narrators too similar, which didn't help. That said, I still found the book worth reading. For one thing, while I've read many books about WWII, I think they've usually been chiefly from either Jewish or British/American perspective (or Swedish) - rather than from within occupied France and the resistance movement there. For another, it's also quite a powerful story about strong friendship between women helping each other through difficult times.

. . .

The Last Correspondent by [Soraya M. Lane]

The Last Correspondent
by Soraya M. Lane (2020)

Kindle + Audible

Audio book narrated by Sarah Zimmerman
9 hrs 34 min

* * * *

This is a story of similar WWII background as the one above, also with the friendship between three women in focus, and set in France.

Quoting from the publisher's introduction:

When journalist Ella Franks is unmasked as a woman writing under a male pseudonym, she loses her job. But having risked everything to write, she refuses to be silenced and leaps at the chance to become a correspondent in war-torn France.

Already entrenched in the thoroughly male arena of war reporting is feisty American photojournalist Danni Bradford. Together with her best friend and partner, Andy, she is determined to cover the events unfolding in Normandy. And to discover the whereabouts of Andy’s flighty sister, Vogue model Chloe, who has followed a lover into the French Resistance.

When trailblazing efforts turn to tragedy, Danni, Ella and Chloe are drawn together, and soon form a formidable team. Each woman is determined to follow her dreams “no matter what,” and to make her voice heard over the noise of war.

Europe is a perilous place, with danger at every turn. They’ll need to rely on each other if they are to get their stories back, and themselves out alive. Will the adventure and love they find be worth the journey of their lives?

On the whole, I think I found this book more interesting, being told from the perspective of war correspondents, both journalists and photographers. It may have increased my interest that I happened to read this book in the early days of the current war situation in Ukraine, and parallel to hearing quite a lot on the news about the difficulty for reporters in our own time to collect correct information about what was really going on. There were parts that seemed a bit exaggerated to me, but in an afterword, the author says that while there are parts of her book that are entirely fiction, there's also a lot based on real events and people even if tweaked a bit to fit her fictional characters and story. 



  1. I have not heard of these. There is a show now called "The Dressmaker" that I plan to watch.

    1. Ginny, there are sooo many books in the world... Both of theses were cheap Kindle+Audible offers on Amazon. I've not heard of the authors in other context.

  2. Glad to add these both to my reading list. Thanks.

    1. Barbara, just trying to make sense of my own inherited family photos and postcards makes me admire the efforts of others to turn fragments of history into readable novels :)

  3. I can see how reading the second book in the early days of the Ukraine war made it more poignant.

    1. Meike, one thing that happened while I was reading it (and trying to understand what 'drives' people like the main characters in that book) was that a Swedish freelance journalist I'm following on FB decided to drive down to the Ukrainian border to see for himself what the situation was like for the refugees there - this was just at the beginning of the invasion, with everyone still in shock both in Ukraine and in Europe.

  4. I've read the "Dressmaker's Gift, and thoroughly enjoyed it - as I have several other of Fiona Valpy's books. "The Last Correspondent" is queued up on my Kindle, along with quite a few other books not yet read.
    Amazon have recently re-configured everything on Kindle, and I'm having trouble accessing some of the books waiting to be read. It annoys me so much that they've changed a perfectly good system that was easy to navigate.

    1. CG, that sounds weird that you're having trouble accessing your Kindle books? I get a bit confused sometimes because my new Kindle does have a different sort of 'layout' compared to my old one and I'm still trying to get used to that. But I've managed to download new books on both.

    2. PS. Maybe you already know (and it may depend on what Kindle you have) but you might find your unread books in a new library folder entitled 'Uncollected'?

    3. My Kindle must be about three or four years old, and I think it's a paperwhite. The screen is backlit so that it can be read even when there is no other light source.
      No problems until the latest update - now I have trouble accessing my Library where the titles of all my books are supposed to be listed in the order in which I bought them. Now there is a tiny photo of the book cover - about half a dozen to a page and I have to keep scrolling down. I tried to spilt them into those that I'd read and those that I hadn't. Amazon has now sorted them into authors, where I'm following a series, and single author ones are just haphazardly listed. Sadly there doesn't seem to be a section for uncollected. There is heading for unread, but that just takes me back to all the book titles!
      In the past I was able to download new books as I came to read them.
      Sorry this is so long-winded and isn't very clear, but like Sandra, I get frustrated!

    4. Wish I could help CG, but it's difficult as I don't know if we're seeing the same thing. On mine I can choose view options: grid, list or collections. I use collections as my standard setting as I've sorted my books into collections I've created myself. That's where I also have an Uncollected folder (which I can't recall having created myself, but I'm not 100% sure!) I can also choose whether to sort by recent, publication date, author or title, ascending or descending. But I too get confused from time to time trying to remember where to find the various options. It's not always that more choices really makes life easier!!

    5. Thank you for this information, Monica. My Kindle doesn't appear to have anything like yours at all.
      Tomorrow my computer guru is coming, so I'll ask him to look at it, and see if he can work out an easier system for me.
      At the back of my mind there's the feeling that Amazon think it's time for me to update this device, so have deliberately altered everything just to annoy me!

  5. i just read Coppa comment and i too am having problems finding the books. i do despise thier last update and have seriously considered finding another device. I read only on the kindle and have been so happy with it and now I am not happy. i even spent over an hour just playing with it. they have ruined it.

    1. Sandra, I'm not sure I get what kind of trouble you are experiencing. When I bought my new Kindle I did feel a bit confused (and still do now and then) because the layout is different from my old one. But I spent hours downloading and organizing my library basically the same way as on my old one (in categories/folders of my own choice), which I find makes it easier for me. You might not agree, though! ;) I prefer to keep most of my Kindle books downloaded, but I seem to recall you don't...


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