Small Acts of Defiance from Michelle Wright is without a doubt a brilliant piece of historical fiction that has been meticulously researched, which shows through in the storytelling as the nightmare of occupied Paris during the Second World War is set out as if it was an event occurring today, not more than seventy years ago.
Having lived in Paris for more than eleven years, Wright adds authenticity to the story with intimate knowledge of the streets of Paris, especially around Notre Dame where a considerable amount of the story is set. During her studies there she began to realise that while the French are very passionate about some of the aspects of their history there is a less than flattering side that is seldom discussed.
Lucie and her mother Yvonne return to Paris, the birth place of Yvonne, after a shattering family tragedy in Australia only to arrive at a time when the German invasion of Poland was dawning. Parisienne’s carried on living life as normal, refusing to believe that Paris would fall to their old foe the Germans, until there came a time only several months after their return, when this became a fact to be faced.
As time progressed and it was apparent that Paris was now under the firm and brutal hand of the Nazi regime, Lucie and her mother struggled to adjust to a life so different to the one left behind in Australia. Dependant on her brother for their home and livelihood, Yvonne and Lucie find themselves trapped in a world of fear and distrust.
Lucie, a talented artist eventually has to make a decision to use her talents to help the resistance movement, which becomes more and more apparent as she be befriends Alina, a girl of Jewish decent. When the Nazi’s begin a crackdown on the French- Jews, Alina’s grandfather Samuel is the first of her family be arrested and sent to one of the camps.
Faced with brutality, hatred and an ever growing resistance movement, Lucie and eventually Yvonne have to decide how far they will go to create Small Acts of Defiance and defend the lives of those they now call friends.
It is interesting to note Michelle Wright has used the little known and very dangerous rescuing of new-born babies from the maternity hospitals, to use in the fabric of the story; a campaign that was carried out by women across Paris in the darkest days of the Nazi brutality at enormous risk to those involved.
It is hard to believe Small Acts of Defiance is a debut novel from Michelle Wright as the work flows, is totally immersive and brilliantly written.
|Publisher||Allen & Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen & Unwin|