A historical novel describes the chaos that ensued after Germany invaded France during World War II.
The French government is divided over the proper response to German belligerence. Some favor an orderly capitulation that guarantees peace at the expense of self-determination in order to save countless lives, pledging their allegiance to the new government formed in Vichy under the leadership of Marshal Pétain. Others want to preserve a free France and fight on, inspired by Charles de Gaulle, the undersecretary of defense. De Gaulle hopes that a new government can be installed in French territory in North Africa and that a military regrouping can be staged. While doing his best to keep up the appearance of neutrality, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dispatches Robert Murphy, a diplomat, to Algiers to either help prepare the French to reenter the fray or to at least repel a possible German invasion. Murphy is accompanied by Jacques Dubois, a handsome banker who buys war equipment for the French and the British, both in dire need of as many fighter planes as possible. Algiers is a remarkably complex place, under the constant vigilance of competing spies, and the Allied Powers are anxious to secure it, but also afraid to spook Germany into a preemptive strike. Myers (Betrayal in Europe, 2015, etc.) adroitly limns not only the perilousness of Algiers in 1941, but also the war as a whole: “Contradictory information flooded Algiers. What was clear was that the Germans seemed to be winning—everywhere. Increasingly, the people in Algiers felt isolated as German power spread across the Mediterranean like one of the black stains spreading across the map that you saw in the Allied newsreels.” The author’s command of the historical period is simply magisterial—the serpentine politics of a cleaved France is masterfully and vividly depicted. Myers also furnishes a stirring account of a perilous romance between Joan Tuyl, a married mother clandestinely working for the British cause, and John Knox, an American merchandise officer attached to the consulate in Algiers.
A riveting fictionalization of an all-too-neglected, pivotal moment in Algiers in 1941.