Synopses & Reviews
Faulks's first novel since the extraordinary success of Birdsong is written with the same passion, power and breadth of vision. Set in England and France during the darkest days of World War II, Charlotte Gray, like Birdsong, depicts a complex love affair that is both shaped and thwarted by war.
It is 1942. London is blacked out, but France is under a greater darkness, as the occupying Nazi forces encroach ever closer in a tense waiting game. Charlotte Gray, a volatile but determined young woman, travels south from Edinburgh. Working in London, she has a brief but intense love affair with an RAF pilot. When his plane is lost over France, she contrives to go there herself to work in the Resistance and to search for him--but then is unwilling to leave as she finds that the struggle for the country's fate is intimately linked to her own battle to take control of her life.
Faulks's novel is an examination of lost paradises, politics without belief, the limits of memory, the redemptive power of art and the existence of hope beyond reason. It is also a brilliant evocation of life in Occupied France and, more significantly, a revelation of the appalling price many Frenchmen paid to survive in unoccupied, so-called Free France. As the men, women and children of Charlotte's small town prepare to meet their terrible destiny, the truth of what took place in wartime France is finally exposed.
When private lives and public events fatally collide, the roots of the characters' lives are torn up and exposed. These harrowing scenes are presented with the passion and narrative force that readers will recall from Birdsong. Charlotte Gray will attract even more readers to Faulks's remarkable fiction.
"As a story about the power of love, it uplifts the spirit. As a story of the dispassionate evil of the Nazis, it brings tears to the eyes. As a story about ordinary people struggling to survive, it arouses admiration, understanding, and revulsion....Faulks (Birdsong) has written one of those rare books that is adventurous enough to attract a popular audience while thoughtful enough to sustain the more serious reader. Highly recommended." Library Journal
In 1942, Charlotte Gray, a young scottish woman, goes to occupied France on a dual mission: to run an apparently simple errand for a British special operations group and to search for her lover, an English airman called Peter Gregory, who has gone missing in action. In the small town of Lavaurette, Sebastian Faulks presents a microcosm of France and its agony in 'the black years', here is the full range of collaboration, from the tacit to the enthusiastic, as well as examples of extraordinary courage and altruism. Through the local resistance chief Julien, Charlotte meets his father a Jewish painter whose inspiration has failed him. In Charlotte's friendship with both men, Faulks opens up the theme of false memory and of paradises both national and personal that appear irredeemably lost. In a series of shocking narrative climaxes in which the full extent of French collusion in the Nazi holocaust is delineated, Faulks brings the story to a resolution of redemptive love. In the delicacy of its writing, the intimacy of its characterisation and its powerful narrative scenes of harrowing public events, Charlotte Gray is a worthy successor to Birdsong.
From the bestselling author of Birdsong
comes Charlotte Gray
, the remarkable story of a young Scottish woman who becomes caught up in the effort to liberate Occupied France from the Nazis while pursuing a perilous mission of her own.
In blacked-out, wartime London, Charlotte Gray develops a dangerous passion for a battle-weary RAF pilot, and when he fails to return from a daring flight into France she is determined to find him. In the service of the Resistance, she travels to the village of Lavaurette, dyeing her hair and changing her name to conceal her identity. Here she will come face-to-face with the harrowing truth of what took place during Europe's darkest years, and will confront a terrifying secret that threatens to cast its shadow over the remainder of her days. Vividly rendered, tremendously moving, and with a narrative sweep and power reminiscent of his novel Birdsong, Charlotte Gray confirms Sebastian Faulks as one of the finest novelists working today.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
With Charlotte Gray
, Sebastian Faulks
concludes his French trilogy of novels, which began with The Girl at the Lion d'Or and Birdsong. His other books include A Fool's Alphabet and The Fatal Englishman. After a period in France, he and his family now live in London.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
This discussion guide will assist readers in exploring Charlotte Gray. Hopefully, it will help create a bond not only between the book and the reader, but also between the members of the group. In your support of this book, please feel free to copy and distribute this guide to best facilitate the program. Thank you.
1. The author described his motivation for writing Charlotte Gray in this way: "I wanted to look at the insidious way that war affects individual lives." War has an obvious effect on the love affair between Charlotte and Peter Gregory-it interrupts it. But what deeper effect does the war have on them as individuals, and how does it change the course of their relationship? How has war effected relationships around you?
2. Many reviewers have praised Faulks' strengths as an historical novelist, particularly his skill with details and his ability to bring his period settings to life. What scenes and settings in Charlotte Gray are especially touching or memorable to you and why?
3. When Charlotte is living in France working for the Resistance she becomes increasingly attracted to the elderly Jewish artist, Levade, and, for different reasons, to his son, Julian. What do these men represent to her, and what is she searching for in her relationship with them? Are they simply replacements for her father and lover or is it more complicated than that?
4. Although Charlotte Gray is set during World War II, the memory and legacy of the First World War infuses the novel. In what ways does Faulks accomplish this, and why do you think he has done so? Does it change the way you think of the First and Second World War? (There is an example on page 107 which describes a town and the effects the two wars have had on it.)
5. Faulks uses the same verb, "disappear," along with other parallels in describing the fates of the young Duguay brothers (page 370) and of Charlotte and Gregory (page 399). What point do you think he is trying to make by doing this?