The romantic history of French journalist Yung-de Prévaux’s parents—both of whom died in the French Resistance and about whom Yung-de Prévaux knew nothing until she was 24—written with captivating directness, passion, and formality.
Yung-de Prévaux was a student in Paris in 1966 when she learned by chance that her real parents were Jacques and Lotka de Prévaux. Here, she pulls together what pieces of their lives she can, a task made all the more difficult as her father’s profoundly religious family had disowned him when he divorced his wife to marry Lotka, a Jewish woman from Poland whose family died in the camps. But her picture is fairly complete and sparklingly written. Jacques was an airship pilot and a naval officer in the French navy—an admiral, at that—a womanizer equally content in his youth to be playing Chopin on the piano or reclining in an opium den when he was stationed in the Far East. Yung-de Prévaux cuts her father a good deal of slack (of his wandering ways during his first marriage: “Jacques led an extensive and complicated love life, not through libertinage but from the need to exercise his powers of seduction”), but he emerges as a flawed if alluring character deeply involved in what was a remarkable moment in history. Lotka made her way to Paris from southern Poland, became a fashion model, and moved with a fast, artistic crowd. They met, sparks flew, he divorced, his family withdrew, and they married. Shortly thereafter, war broke out in France, and the Prévauxs joined the F2 branch of the Resistance, operating in the south of the country: she as a courier and he in intelligence. They were captured late in the war, tortured but revealed nothing, and shot days before the liberation of Lyon.
A moving story of characters, arresting to begin with, who rise to acts of extreme courage.