I am very excited to share an excerpt from The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff as part of a tour with TLC Book Tours. You can follow the tour from the beginning and find where to read excerpts 1 – 8 HERE
The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff, Excerpt 9
Eleanor appraised Marie as one might a vase or piece of jewelry, her gaze steely and unrelenting. “So you’ve decided then?” she said, making it sound as if they were at the end of a long conversation and had not met thirty seconds earlier. “Decided?” Marie repeated, puzzled.
“Yes. You have to decide if you want to risk your life, and I have to decide if I can let you.” Marie’s mind whirled. “I’m sorry…I’m afraid I don’t understand.” “You don’t know who we are, do you?” Marie shook her head. “Then what are you doing here?”
“A man in a café gave me a card and…” Marie faltered, hearing the ridiculousness of the situation in her own voice. She had not even learned his name. “I should just go.” She stood. The woman pressed a firm hand on her shoulder. “Not necessarily. Just because you don’t know why you’ve come, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be here. We often find purpose where we least expect it—or not.” Her style was brusque, unfeminine and unquestionably stern. “Don’t blame the man who sent you. He wasn’t authorized to say
more. Our work is highly classified. Many who work at the most senior levels of Whitehall itself have no idea what it is that we do.” “Which is what, exactly?” Marie ventured to ask. “We’re a branch of the Special Operations Executive.” “Oh,” Marie said, though the answer really didn’t clarify matters for her.
“Covert operations.” “Like the codebreakers at Bletchley?” She’d known a girl who had left the typing pool to do that once. “Something like that. Our work is a bit more physical, though. On the ground.”
“In Europe?” Eleanor nodded. Marie understood then: they meant to send her over, into the war. “You want me to be a spy?” “We don’t ask questions here,” Eleanor snapped. Then it was not, Marie reflected, the place for her. She had always been curious, too curious, her mother would say, with never-ending questions that only made her father’s temper worsen as Marie progressed through her teen years. “We aren’t spies,” Eleanor added, as though the suggestion was offensive. “Espionage is the business of MI6. Rather, here at SOE, our mission is sabotage, or destroying things like railroad tracks, telegraph lines, factory equipment and such, in order to hinder the Germans. We also help the local partisans arm and
resist.” “I’ve never heard of such things.” “Exactly.” Eleanor sounded almost pleased. “But what makes you think I could have any part in something like this? I’m hardly qualified.” “Nonsense. You’re smart, capable.” How could this woman, who had only just met her, possibly know that? It was perhaps the first time in her life that anyone had described her that way. Her father made sure she felt the very opposite.
And Richard, her now-gone husband, had treated her as if she was special for a fleeting moment, and look where all that had led. Marie had never thought of herself as any of these things, but now she found herself sitting a bit taller. “You speak the language. You’re exactly who we’re looking for. Have you ever played a musical instrument?” Eleanor asked. Though it seemed nothing should surprise her anymore, Marie found the question strange. “Piano when I was very young. Harp in school.” “That could be useful. Open your mouth,” Eleanor ordered, her voice suddenly terse. Marie was certain that she had misheard. But Eleanor’s face was serious. “Your mouth,” came the command again, insistent and impatient. Reluctantly, Marie complied. Eleanor stared into her mouth like a dentist. Marie bristled, resenting the intrusion by a woman she had only just met. “That back filling will have to go,” Eleanor said decisively, stepping back. “Go?” Marie’s voice rose with alarm. “But that’s a perfectly good filling—just a year old and was quite expensive.” “Exactly. Too expensive. It will mark you as English right away. We’ll have it replaced with porcelain—that’s what the French use.”
It all came together in Marie’s mind then: the man’s interest in her language skills, Eleanor’s concern over whether a tooth filling was too English. “You want me to impersonate a Frenchwoman.”
“Among other things, yes —if you make it through training.” Eleanor spoke as though she had already agreed to go. “That’s all I can say about it for now. Secrecy is of the utmost importance to our operations.” Deployed. Operations. Marie’s head swam. It seemed surreal that in this elegant townhouse just steps from the shops and bustle of Oxford Street, covert war against Germany was planned and waged. “The car will be here for you in one hour to take you to training school,” Eleanor said,
as though it were all settled. “Now? But that’s so soon! I would have to sort out my affairs and pack.”
“It is always the way,” Eleanor replied. Perhaps. Marie reflected, they didn’t want to give people a chance to go home and have second thoughts. “We’ll provide everything you need and give notice to the War Office for you.” Marie stared at Eleanor with surprise. She hadn’t said where she worked. She realized then that these people, whoever they were, knew too much about her. The meeting in the café had not been by chance.
About the Lost Girls of Paris:
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Park Row; Original edition (January 29, 2019)
From the author of the runaway bestseller The Orphan’s Tale comes a remarkable story of friendship and courage centered around three women and a ring of female secret agents during World War II.
One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.
Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.
Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.
About the Author:
Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.
Connect with Pam