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Books  >>  Biography

Nicholas Shakespeare

Priscilla

Nicholas Shakespeare Priscilla The Hidden Life Of An Englishwoman In Wartime Fra
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Main description:

Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France by Nicholas Shakespeare is a transcendent work of narrative nonfiction in the vein of The Hare with Amber Eyes.

When Nicholas Shakespeare stumbled across a trunk full of his late aunt’s personal belongings, he was unaware of where this discovery would take him and what he would learn about her hidden past. The glamorous, mysterious figure he remembered from his childhood was very different from the morally ambiguous young woman who emerged from the trove of love letters, journals and photographs, surrounded by suitors and living the precarious existence of a British citizen in a country controlled by the enemy during World War II.

As a young boy, Shakespeare had always believed that his aunt was a member of the Resistance and had been tortured by the Germans. The truth turned out to be far more complicated. 

Piecing together fragments of his aunt’s remarkable and tragic story, Priscilla is at once a stunning story of detection, a loving portrait of a flawed woman trying to survive in terrible times, and a spellbinding slice of history.

Review quote:

“[A] wonderfully readable quest for answers….[Shakespeare] builds a nuanced, sensitive portrait of this sad and glamorous member of his family….As the life of Priscilla shows, surviving the occupation was too complicated an affair for any black-and-white verdict.”

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“A fascinating, complicated story.”

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“A fine book, full of hurried journeys and secret liaisons, by one of Britain’s best writers.”

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“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.”

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“A gripping narrative….Shakespeare offers a nuanced and detailed psychological study of the effect of the Second World War on an ordinary woman. The result is just as absorbing as any biography of a war hero.”

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“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.”

Review quote:

“A tantalizingly original perspective of the Second World War….In his engaging detective story, as he pieces Priscilla’s war years together, Shakespeare shines a moving, intriguing light on the moral quandaries faces by ordinary citizens.”

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“A wonderful book….I have not read a better portrait of the moral impossibility of that time and place for people, like Priscilla, who found themselves trapped in it.”

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“An excellently researched, beautifully written and unflinching memoir.”

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“As Shakespeare does his research, the mystery of Priscilla begins to recede....She is revealed as possibly less worthy-but maybe more intriguing…Our hunger to know what she thought and felt is a tribute to just how much of her he has been able to put on the page.”

Review quote:

“Extraordinary true story of the author’s aunt. A life of dark secrets, glamour, adventure and adversity during wartime.”

Review quote:

“Fascinating….Shakespeare probes his aunt’s wartime years with finesse and pathos….His reconstruction of Priscilla’s life is meticulous and tantalizing.”

Review quote:

“Gripping….[An] extraordinary voyage int“Thrilling.….An intimate family memoir, a story of survival and a quest for biographical truth.”


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