BOOK CLUB: The French Gift

The French Gift is the second novel by Australian author Kirsty Manning. It is an inspirational story based on true events of WWII that will clutch at your heart. 

The story is told over two time periods;1940 – 1945 WWII and the present day.

Josephine Murant, a journalist who is imprisoned in France for partaking in the resistance. She meets her cellmate, former maid Margot Bisset from The Riviera, who has been charged with a murder she didn’t commit. Both women are transferred to a German labour camp for five years and were made to work in horrific conditions at the Phrix rayon factory.  

Both women formed a close bond sharing their lives, fears, hope and secrets as they fought for their survival. In the camp, Josephine records accounts of her time into a copy of a book Le Fantome de L’Opera whilst Margot escapes in murder mystery novels provided to her by a guard. In June 1945 Josephine was liberated by the Third United States Army, where she followed her passion in writing crime fiction until her death. 

You could feel Josephine’s and Margot’s bravery shine, both women enduring so much with the courage needed to face the most devastating times.  A balance is created between the intimate moments of their friendship and how they sit within the wider fields of battle during a horror of war with a focus on things that make us human.

Present day, widowed Evie Black and her teenage son Hugo live above her boutique bookshop, La Maison. Evie receives a letter from Clement Tazi, a museum curator in regard to the legacy of her husband’s great aunt Josephine Murrant and invites her to help with an exhibition about the great crime fiction author.  Evie grabs at the opportunity, with her son they travel to Josephine’s house which they have now inherited on the Cote d’Azur. 

Whilst putting together the exhibition Evie and Clement find a lot more than they bargained for. Searching through manuscripts they uncover the horror of war and the stories of how women were treated with a general disregard for human life. As secrets unfold, Evie and Clement realise they must treat Josephine’s legacy with respect and honour.

The French Gift is Inspired by a true story of iconic French Resistance fighter, Agnes Humbert, from the fall of Paris until her arrest and interrogation by the Gestapo in April 1941. Humbert kept a written diary, apart from a few scribbled notes, she resumed writing her diary after her liberation from prison four years later in April 1945.

Kirsty Manning has done a remarkable job portraying Agnes, it is so well-written, so moving, so shocking, so educating, so thought-provoking with excellency, compassion and dignity towards the characters. It’s just not another story about WWII, it is a story of courage, duty, friendship, hope and the heavy weight people carried.  It kept me engaged, fascinated and eager to turn the pages.  It’s a wonderful, enjoyable novel with courage and survival at its heart.

Thank you Beauty & Lace and Allen & Unwin AU for the opportunity to read and review.

ISBN: 9781760528096

Copy courtesy of publisher: Allen & Unwin

A selection of our members are reading The French Gift. Read their reviews below, or add your own!

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