‘I don’t remember.’
1947. The war has finished, but it isn’t over for many of those who were part of it. Juliet Barnard has an uncomfortable secret. While her family believed that she was safely in England helping the war effort, she was on a mission behind enemy lines in Paris. Juliet was one of the women trained as wireless operators and then parachuted into France to spy on the Germans. They knew they were in great danger: being captured would mean torture and almost certain death. Juliet managed to fulfil her mission and to evade capture for some time, but then she was captured. Juliet was taken to a house on the Avenue Foch. While imprisoned, Juliet believed that she betrayed other operatives and while she has blocked aspects of her traumatic experiences from her memory, she has no desire to return to France.
‘Inside her carefully constructed prism, she was safe.’
But there’s another British agent still missing in France, the sister of an ex-SAS officer who begs Juliet to help find her. Juliet reluctantly agrees to help, which forces her to retrace her past and reopen some very painful memories.
This novel is about the shadowy and dangerous world of espionage, and the high price paid by those caught behind enemy lines. In her author’s note, Ms Wells indicates that much of this novel was inspired by historical fact and that many of the characters were based on real people.
I found this novel totally absorbing. I was humbled and inspired by the bravery of some characters, appalled by the behaviour of others. Juliet is a complex, well-developed character seeking to do her best in extraordinary circumstances. I became caught up in Juliet’s story, wondering what she would find out in France and how she would react. What really happened in the house on the Avenue Foch? What does the future hold for Juliet?
I recommend this novel for two reasons. Firstly, Ms Wells has done her research and the novel is well-written. Secondly, it shines a light on a different aspect of war-time espionage, one in which the bravery of individuals is hidden (mostly) in the shadows.