If you visit my site often you are aware that I love a good book and enjoy historical novels. After delving into the story of Band of Sisters telling of the story of Smith College women who volunteered to go to France to help villagers being decimated during WW I, I was interested in other books that might give glimpses into how women we may never have heard of were involved in war time beyond official military service.
I discovered just such a story when I found The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron. The author weaves an absorbing story about true accounts of the way Parisiennes resisted the Nazi occupation during WW II. This story gives us a close-up view of two female characters who risked all they had and were to fight against the evil seeking to destroy them.
The structure of the story goes back and forth in time from 1939 to the liberation of Paris in August 1944 and the author successfully brings the two women’s stories to an intersection that reveals their character and strength. One quote pointing to this is:
“Above all things, our choice to remain faithful in the face of uncertainty is sacred to God and He will honor it in His time. Do not give up on God: He will hold you fast.”Kristy Cambron
Who were these women whose lives unfold on the pages written by Kristy Cambron? One is Lila de Laurent, an haute couture dressmaker at the esteemed Maison Chanel fashion house. The onslaught of occupation brings down the worldwide fashion industry with even talented dressmakers struggling to find ways to survive amid rations, restrictions of all kinds, and the ongoing propaganda fomented by the Nazi regime.
As things continue to worsen, Lila is drawn to La Resistance and a friend from the past gives her entree into using her dressmaking skills and designs to create elaborate attire for the French women attached to the high-ranking Nazi officers housed in Hotel Ritz. Her access into this arena allows her to gain information to use with La Resistance, but her determination is ultimately strengthened when a man she had once loved arrives on the scene when her life is in peril. Learning of the peril facing his Jewish family heightens her determination to try to save them and others like them.
The second main character is named, Sandrine. Her father owned a bookshop that is torn apart by the Nazi’s for containing books that are banned. She and her young son, Henri, live with her parents after her husband, Christian, joins the French forces to fight for liberation. This family also struggles to survive the threats and occupation and Sandrine is ultimately ordered to help catalog the classic works of art being confiscated by the Nazi’s and sent to Berlin and the homes of high-ranking German officers such as Hermann Goring. Her education and experience with the books from her father’s shop give her the background for this task.
As Sandrine wonders about the fate of her husband, the German officers in charge of the project of stealing the art of Paris for their own notice her attractiveness. Soon she is being watched and escorted to and from work and is recruited to discover the work of La Resistance to not only catalog all the art treasures but also make and hide records of it in the hope of retrieving it one day. This action puts her at even greater risk and as the German Captain keeps coming to take her to work, neighbors begin to wonder if she is one of the French collaborators they have come to hate.
You won’t want to miss how the stories of these two women and those they work with unfold page-by-page and how one exquisite blush Chanel gown that conceals a cryptic message connects the lives of these two characters.
“We have a call to remember history as it was, to uncover the truth, to spotlight the savage consequences of sin, and to educated future generations so that these brutal mistakes might never be repeated. For the lives lost, for the lives lived, and for the lives yet to come…may we never forget.”Kristy Cambron