The Paris Secret from Natasha Lester would have to be considered as one of the better historical fictions to date in 2020. The storyline is riveting, spaning the many years from 1939 to the present day effortlessly, as it portrays the lives of the Penrose family, a family with roots reaching deeply into the horrific times of World War II.
Kat Jourdan, renown Australian fashion conservator is asked by her beloved grandmother to go to her cottage in Cornwall while she is in London on business. This come as a great surprise to Kat as she had no idea her grandmother owned anything at all in Cornwall, let alone a cottage. On her return to Sydney, she has more questions than answers about what she discovered at the cottage; a rare and beautiful collection of Dior gowns, each labelled for the year of manufacture.
Elliott Beaufort, historian and writer, is carrying out research on a Margaux Jourdan, a woman of mystery, a woman who could be her grandmother, a woman who had a very interesting and secret role in SOE, a division of British security during WWII. He contacts Kat in Australia and they arrange to meet when she in next in London, but in the meantime, Kat realises needs to ask her grandmother a few questions about her past.
As Kat begins to ask her grandmother to explain some of the background to the Dior gowns and Cornwall, Margaux becomes very distressed refusing to tell her more than just a little about her life, mainly that of her settling in Australia after the War.
Vanessa Penrose, mother of two daughters Skye and Liberty, is a bit of a bohemian type. Considered as a witch by the local villagers, she lives in a rather romantic Cornish cottage on the headlands. She also flew a tiger moth with aplomb, entertains lavishly, and is considered as bit of a fast woman.
Skye meets Nicholas Crawford on her beloved beach when they are young children, and they develop a binding friendship. Liberty is a completely different character, clinging, demanding and highly temperamental.
From this simple foundation a most compelling story evolves based around the history of the Air Transport Authority, a select group of female pilots who ferried aircraft about the skies of Britain during the War years without instruments or radio, unarmed and flying only on dead reckoning with visual navigation, often flying in appalling conditions.
Many of the characters are based on real women, the female concentration camp at Ravenbruck, is an all to horrific reality, the French Resistance and the many brave British women who were sent in as agents is also factual, as is the chauvinism the women pilots and many other female operatives had to contend with throughout the war years. The Dior involvement is also based on fact, with a little poetic licence applied.
Natasha Lester has created a story that captivates and one of which so many readers will be able to relate as so much of reality included in the storyline is an integral part of many, many family’s history.