Book Review for “Sisters of the Resistance” by Christine Wells.
Summary: “France, 1944: The Nazis still occupy Paris, and twenty-five-year-old Gabby Foucher hates these enemies, though, as the concierge of ten rue Royale, she makes it a point to avoid trouble, unlike her sister Yvette. Until she, like her sister, is recruited into the Resistance by Catherine Dior—sister of the fashion designer, Christian Dior. Gabby and Yvette are both swept into the world of spies, fugitives, and Resistance workers, and it doesn’t take long for the sisters to realize that their lives are in danger. Gabby discovers an elderly tenant is hiding a wounded British fugitive, and Yvette becomes a messenger for the Resistance. But as Gabby begins to fall in love with her patient and Yvette’s impulsiveness lead her into intrigue at an ever-higher level, both women will discover that their hearts and even their souls hang in the balance as well.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Historical; France; WWII – 1944, 1947 Other Categories: Novel, Biographical, Romance, Spies, Resistance.
One of my fellow bloggers will NOT want to read this novel, because “WWII–in which there were only women spies and no one else, LOL?” I see her point – it feels like every book out there today is about what some woman did to undermine the Nazis, as if there were no men out there doing anything to win the war. But the truth is, women really did play a huge part in the resistance, and as spies for the allies, and many of them went unnoticed or under-noticed for far too long. So, although it might seem like every other book on WWII is about some woman’s heroism, I think it is actually about time that these stories got told.
That said, despite the fact that this book is subtitled “a novel of Catherine Dior’s Paris spy network” the truth is, Miss Dior actually has a minor role in this novel. Instead, we focus equally on the titular sisters – Gabby and Yvette Foucher. Obviously, both of them have contact with Dior, since they all live in the same apartment complex, and in their own separate ways, become involved in the resistance through her. This means that while the primary title is totally accurate, I think the subtitle was made to entice more readers. I’m afraid some of them might be a bit disappointed that they don’t get to know Catherine a bit better from this book. In fact, it was one of the drawbacks of this novel for me, but I don’t think this ruined the book in the least. Since my copy had no author’s notes, I don’t believe that these sisters were real women (and Google turned up nothing). I have to say that focusing on fictional characters is one way to avoid including too much unnecessary information, so I think that was a good choice for Wells.
If we look at the spying side, what Wells here shows us more than anything else, is how quietly people in Paris got involved with their acts of resistance, both small and large. For example, there’s the young man from the fashion house where Yvette works who is passing around flyers, who later gets in over his head. Yvette isn’t satisfied his initial, ineffective works, and when more direct acts of intrigue come her way, she’s only slightly reluctant to do her part. Gabby, on the other hand, ends up stumbling into Dior’s network by accident, and yet she doesn’t shy away from doing what she can to help. Wells also paints a picture of a city filled with suspicion and fear, so that no one ever knows who is on their side, or who would give them up to the Nazis for extra rations or to just be left alone and not badgered by the enemy. Together with this, Wells clearly shows the contrast of the collaborators living life as if there’s no war on, as opposed to the suffering of the patriots who refuse to accept their overlords as anything besides cruel and heartless interlopers. If you want to read a book that depicts the strained atmosphere of Paris under Nazi occupation, this is one of the better examples I’ve read so far.
On the characterization side, I felt that Wells painted both Gabby and Yvette very true to life. They aren’t perfect – not as spies and not as people – yet they find their inner strengths when needed. The two are actually very different from each other, and I could picture them as I read, which is a good thing. However, I’m not sure that they always reacted consistently (which can also make sense, given the circumstances), and there were a couple of spots where I think they did something that felt out of character. That made me wonder if Wells’ chosen conclusions for these young women wasn’t a bit too obvious for one sister, and a bit overly obscure for the other. I didn’t hate the ending; I was just unsure if it worked for me. Even so, I really enjoyed Wells’ writing and I had a hard time putting it down. For all this, I am recommending this book warmly, with a strong four out of five stars.
William Morrow – Harper Collins released “Sisters of the Resistance” by Christine Wells on June 8, 2021 (September 16, in the UK). This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), Foyles, Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, or Better World Books (promoting world literacy), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (supporting independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via Edelweiss.