Synopses & Reviews
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.
"A miraculous novel....Faulks is a master indeed." San Francisco Chronicle
"There is no shortage of dramatic tension, excitement or persuasive detail [in Charlotte Gray]....Mr. Faulks is a prodigiously talented writer." The New York Times
"This powerful novel...explodes into an immensely gripping tale." The Wall Street Journal
"What begins as a conventional love story becomes an adventure of the spirit....Charlotte Gray has depth and texture." The Washington Post
"Although this novel does not, sadly, equal its predecessor in terms of seductive readability, its setting in occupied France during WWII and its depiction of the sentiments that motivated many Frenchmen to identify emotionally with the Germans rather than their longtime foe, Britain, grants the story intrinsic interest....[I]n the end, it is the convincing settings, the wartime London singles scene, the old boy spy network, and daily life in an ideologically and politically divided France that shape dramatic immediacy." Publishers Weekly
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.
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.
Reading Group Guide
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?