Attorney Giles Lambert and medical student Giselle “Elle” d’Hozier meet at an alumni soccer game in Paris in 1938. After a whirlwind courtship complicated by religious differences (Giles is Jewish, Elle is Catholic), they marry. However, Paris on the eve of World War II is an inauspicious place to embark on a new life, particularly if one is Jewish. Due to Giles’ dual citizenship and fluency in English, he becomes the French liaison officer for the British Expeditionary Force. Giles’ position and residency in Paris become increasingly tenuous, and Elle’s mother and his own parents flee to the countryside. This World War II novel is impeccably researched throughout. But although it has an intriguing premise, it fails to live up to its potential. Rosenblum tells the story through a series of flashbacks, but the timeline is particularly difficult to follow and seems to assume a near-expert level of historical knowledge. Giles, in his efforts to preserve himself and protect his new bride (as well as his equally beloved MG), relies on old friends and collects on old debts. At times, however, his schemes seem unnecessarily convoluted, as when he disguises himself as a Catholic monsignor or when he asks his mother-in-law, Marguerite, to help convince authorities that she’s trying to fix up Giles’ friend Etienne with Elle as part of a plot to get Etienne to Lyon. The novel’s most significant problem, however, is that it reads more like a historical text than a novel. The characters’ conversations are primarily summarized, and there’s very little description, with a few exceptions, such as Giles and Elle’s emotionally charged makeup sex. When the characters do speak, however, they do so with great enthusiasm; the small amount of actual dialogue often ends in exclamation points: “Giles, darling, I can’t live this way anymore!”
A well-researched but dry tome; best for true fans of historical narratives.