‘Civilisation was more than a mass of people; it was also the beautiful things that came from minds and hands and that touched hearts.’
Paris 1939. Éliane Dufort lives in Paris with her parents and siblings. The family has a small brasserie. Éliane works part time at the Louvre, and as a waitress in the family brasserie. But when Paris falls under Nazi control, lives are changed forever. The Nazis are stealing artworks, and they do not realise that Éliane understands German. Éliane is able to share information about the artworks with members of the Resistance. But this is both courageous and dangerous. And who can she trust? There are spies everywhere.
In the present day, following the tragic loss of her husband and daughter, Remy Lang retreats to a home she has inherited on the Riviera. Remy has a vintage fashion business, and in a catalogue of artworks stolen during World War II she discovers in her Riviera house, she is shocked to discover a painting that hung on her bedroom wall as a child. Who owns the painting?
The story shifts between past and present, between the heroic activities of Éliane and others during World War II and the puzzles and issues confronting Remy in the present day.
Rose Valland was the hero used by Ms Lester as the inspiration for this novel, which took me into a part of World War II history dealing with Nazi art theft and its far-reaching repercussions. Ms Lester brings the two storylines together brilliantly: I was left guessing about some connections until near the end. Both sets of characters came to life for me in this deeply moving story, and I became caught up in both timelines.
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.