Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France

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Today’s Nonfiction post is on Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France by Nicholas Shakespeare. It is 448 pages long and it is published by HarperCollins. The cover is a picture of Priscilla during the time of the Nazi occupation of France. The story is told from some first person accounts like interviews and journal entries and sometimes from Shakespeare’s first person as he searches for information about his aunt. There is strong language, talk of sex and abortion, and violence; so adults only for the best. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the back of the book- When Nicholas Shakespeare stumbled across a trunkful of his late aunt’s personal belongings, he was unaware of where this discovery would take him and what he would learn about her hidden past. The glamorous, mysterious figure he remembered from his childhood was very different from the morally ambiguous young woman who emerged from the trove of love letters, journals, and photographs, surrounded by suitors and living the precarious existence of a British citizen in a country controlled by the enemy.
As a young boy, Shakespeare had always believed that his aunt was a member of the Resistance and had been tortured by the Germans. The truth turned out to be far more complicated.

Review- This is the first biography that I have read in about 20 years. I just do not really like them but I liked this book. It is very sad but Shakespeare loves his aunt. His compassion about her life, her dreams, and the things that she had to do in order to survive shines out. He lays out his aunt’s whole life from birth to her death of cancer. He interviews her friends that are still living, and if not he reads letters and personal journals about his aunt. This is a look at a woman who lived through a very dark time and parts of her never moved past it. Priscilla, like most people, was more than just one person. She was a daughter of failed parents, a sister unknown to most of her siblings, a wife to two husbands, and a survivor of one of the darkest times in modern history. This story is about more than just one woman. It is about all women who lived like her; on the edge of life and death. Priscilla is a call to give mercy to those who are just trying to survive in impossible times. I was very moved by this book.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I was given a copy of this book by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.