Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France

Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France

Paperback Harvill Secker

By (author) Nicholas Shakespeare

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  • Publisher: HARVILL SECKER
  • Format: Paperback | 448 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 232mm x 38mm | 660g
  • Publication date: 7 November 2013
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1846554845
  • ISBN 13: 9781846554841
  • Sales rank: 127,595

Product description

This is the astonishing true story of a young woman's adventures, and misadventures, in the dangerous world of Nazi-occupied France. "A most strange and compelling book driven by the writer's unsparing search for truth: now an optimistic hunt for a family heroine, now a study in female wiles of survival, now a portrait of one very ordinary person's frailty in the face of terrible odds". (John le Carre). When Nicholas Shakespeare stumbled across a box documents belonging to his late aunt he was completely unaware of where this discovery would take him. The Priscilla he remembered was very different from the glamorous, morally ambiguous young woman who emerged from the many love letters and journals, surrounded by suitors and living the dangerous existence of a British woman in a country controlled by the enemy. He had heard rumours that Priscilla had fought in the Resistance, but the truth turned out to be far more complicated. As he investigated his aunt's life, dark secrets emerged. Nicholas discovered the answer to the questions he'd been puzzling over: What caused the breakdown of Priscilla's marriage to a French aristocrat? Why had she been interned in a prisoner-of-war camp and how had she escaped? And who was the 'Otto' she was having a relationship with as Paris was liberated? Priscilla's story show us the precariousness of life in occupied France, when loyalties were compromised and life could change in an instant. It gives us an intimate insight into women's lives in times of conflict and asks us to consider what we might do to survive in similar circumstances.

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Author information

Nicholas Shakespeare was born in Worcester in 1957 and grew up in the Far East and Latin America. He is a prize-winning novelist and biographer and Priscilla draws on his talents in both genres.

Review quote

"This mysterious story of the Occupation in France has all the qualities of a fascinating novel, with exquisite social, sexual and moral nuance" -- Antony Beevor "Nicholas Shakespeare has employed all his superb gifts as a writer to tell the picaresque tale of his aunt in wartime occupied France. Priscilla is a femme fatale worthy of fiction, and the author traces her tangled, troubled, romantic and often tragically unromantic experiences through one of the most dreadful periods of 20th-century history" -- Max Hastings "Priscilla's descent into hell runs eerily parallel to that of France itself; Faustian, fascinating and in the end extremely sad" -- Sebastian Faulks "A gripping excavation of a woman's secret past, Priscilla is also a fascinating portrait of France during the Second World War, and of the many shadowy and corrupt deals made by the French with their Nazi occupiers" -- Caroline Moorehead "In Priscilla, Nicholas Shakespeare captures the soul of a young Englishwoman who, to survive in Nazi-occupied France, is forced to make choices which few in England ever had to face. She remained her own unflinching judge and jury to the end" -- Charlotte Rampling